Chevron misleads consumers through advertisements portraying ‘green’ credentials and racial inclusion

“The world’s second biggest polluter shouldn’t be allowed to advertise that they’re good for the environment”

Adblock Bristol has lodged a formal complaint against oil giant Chevron Corp with the UK’s advertising regulation body, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in protest against the company’s misleading and greenwashing advertisements.

Chevron’s latest marketing campaign has ignited backlash across the world with Greenpeace USA, Earthworks and Global Witness filing a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on the premise that the adverts are unlawfully deceptive.

Chevron’s #HumanEnergy video announces: “At Chevron we’re lowering the carbon emissions intensity of our operations, investing in low carbon technologies and exploring renewable fuels of the futureThe video’s imagery strongly portrays racial diversity and social inclusion. But what is the oil and gas giant really doing to protect people and planet? 

The answer’s in the numbers: Chevron aims to increase oil and gas production by 15% to 3.5 million net oil-equivalent Barrels/Day by 2025. Meanwhile just 3% of its annual spending is designated for low-carbon activities, including reducing the carbon emitted per barrel of oil and gas they produce (‘carbon intensity’) and investment in renewables, offsets, and carbon capture technologies.

Overall, Chevron’s activities are predicted to cause a rise in climate-harming emissions. As the impacts of global heating are felt across the globe, disproportionately affecting Black, Brown, Indigenous and lower-wealth communities, it is increasingly urgent to call Chevron and other oil and gas giants out on ‘feel-good’ advertising that maintains their social license to operate despite a net negative investment in a low-carbon future.

As stated by Josh Eisenfeld, Corporate Accountability Campaigner at Earthworks: “The world’s second biggest polluter shouldn’t be allowed to advertise that they’re good for the environment.”

References: See the full version of Adblock Bristol’s complaint for the numbered references.

For more about the ASA, join this upcoming webinar co-hosted by Adfree Cities and the Badvertising campaign on Wednesday 14 April 2021: Junk food, fossil fuels and consumerism – how can we stop manipulative advertising?

Template complaint to the Advertising Standards Authroity
Feel free to amend and personalise your complaint below. There is a word count limit of 5000 characters.

Chevron’s ad can be found here on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Chevron/status/1369429847668367364?s=20

Chevron’s video transcript reads:
“We know it’s going to take many forms of energy to meet the world’s needs while creating a cleaner future for all. At Chevron we’re lowering the carbon emissions intensity of our operations, investing in low carbon technologies and exploring renewable fuels of the future. We work hard to care for the homes we love, but it’s only human to protect the one we share.”

1. Misleading emphasis on reducing carbon emissions when Chevron’s total emissions are predicted to rise.

 The ad places a misleading emphasis on its ‘clean’ investments when 97% of its annual spending plan to 2028 will be in fossil fuels.  In 2021, Chevron’s “Climate Change Resilience” report states an intent to invest $3 billion in carbon-reduction projects, renewables, offsets, and carbon capture technologies by 2028 [1]. This amounts to less than 3% of the firm’s annual capital budget [2]. In comparison, Chevron plans to spend $14 – $16 billion a year on capital projects and exploration in the period 2021-2025  [3]. Chevron aims to increase oil and gas production by 15% to 3.5 million net oil-equivalent Barrels/Day by 2025.

2. Misleading use of jargon: ‘lowering the carbon intensity of our operations’.
The concept of ‘carbon emissions intensity’ (emission rate of CO2e per unit of energy produced) is not well known. It sounds like Chevron is lowering their carbon emissions, which is misleading. The advertisement does not make a distinction between these terms meaning this statement is unclear and ambiguous.  Chevron plan to increase their extraction of oil and gas by 15% to 2025.  Even if carbon emissions intensity was 0%, Chevron’s contribution to absolute emissions will rise as the firm continues to expand its oil and gas operations.

3.   Misleading imagery of racial inclusion.

The video advertisement strongly portrays racial diversity and inclusion in its visual imagery. This is misleading since Chevron is known to be racist in its dumping activities and disregard for the environment. Chevron’s enormous contribution to climate breakdown through greenhouse gas emissions [5] disproportionately affects black, brown, indigenous and lower-wealth communities across the world [6], with no substantial commitment to address this currently. Chevron is credited with knowingly dumping more than 16 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Ecuadorian Amazon, compromising the health and homes of 30,000 Indigenous and rural Ecuadorians [7].  In the city of Richmond, California, which hosts Chevron’s major oil refinery, the population of Black, Asian and Hispanic and Latino residents is markedly higher (78.1%) than the state (61.4%) according to the  2019 US Census. Children in Richmond are diagnosed with asthma at more than two times the national average rate [8]. Residents suffer long-term exposure to air pollution from the refinery, including from deliberate ‘flares’ that send clouds of particulate matter into the air. A fire in 2012 caused 15,000 people to seek medical treatment for respiratory distress and other health problems. [9] Furthermore, in the 2019/20 US election cycle Chevron gave over four times more campaign funding to US politicians who vote against racial justice and civil rights legislation [8].

4. Misleading use of environmentally responsible terminology: ‘cleaner future’, ‘protect the [home] we share’.

This terminology depicts Chevron as a responsible company that is contributing to a low-carbon future and protecting the planet. This is misleading and conceals material information. Chevron contributed more than 43.4 billion tons of CO2 equivalent in greenhouse gases from 1965-2017 and is the second biggest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions in the world(5). With plans to increase their fossil fuel extraction by 15% from 2021-2025(2,4) and no current plans to reduce either their Scope 2 or 3 emissions(1), this is unlikely to change in the short- or medium-term. The company is highly polluting, credited with knowingly dumping more than 16 billion gallons of toxic waste in Ecuador’s Amazon region(7). Just recently, in February 2021, a spill at Chevron Corp’s oil refinery in Richmond, California, leaked around 600 gallons of petroleum into the San Francisco Bay, compromising human wellbeing and threatening wildlife(10).  Chevron is evidently not contributing to a ‘cleaner future’, nor protecting the planet.

Overall, we are concerned that this advertisement consistently breaches points 3.1 and 3.3 of the non-broadcast Code. It misleads consumers by placing false emphasis on Chevron’s role in environmental protection and the transition to a low-carbon future, as well as presenting a false portrayal of environmental and social responsibility.

For a fuller list of references for the numbered points in this complaint, please see: http://adfreecities.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Chevron-complaint-to-ASA-from-Adblock-Bristol-full-version.pdf

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