Oil and gas giant Shell Australia is the latest company to be referred to corporate and advertising regulators for allegedly misleading or deceptive statements about the climate impacts of its products and operations.
Comms Declare, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, has formally complained to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) and Ad Standards that Shell Australia may have breached sections of the federal Australian Consumer Law and Ad Standards’ Environmental Claims Code.
The complaint relates to statements Shell Australia makes in marketing materials that give investors and consumers the false impression that the company has a plan to become a net-zero business by 2050.
“Shell wants consumers and investors to think the company is going ‘green’, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Comms Declare founder Belinda Noble said.
“Shell is one of the nation’s biggest polluters and is exploring new oil and gas fields around Australia. It also has no concrete plans to switch its business to renewable or low-carbon energy.
“We allege that Shell is using misleading or deceptive statements to cynically capitalise on the public’s preference for low-carbon products and companies.
“Shell spent nearly half a million dollars on one Facebook video spruiking its net zero target, making it the most expensive single Facebook post of the year.
“But internal Shell emails shown to a US government committee stated net zero was ‘not a Shell business plan’.
“We want the corporate watchdog and advertising standards regulator to hold companies like Shell to account and to make them tell the truth about their environmental impact.
“France has banned some fossil fuel advertising altogether and we’re seeing a massive movement overseas against bogus net zero claims.
“The days of the world’s most destructive corporations pretending they are the solution to the climate crisis they are actually creating are well and truly numbered.”
Environmental Defenders Office Managing Lawyer Kirsty Ruddock said: “Greenwashing is dangerous because it delays action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and undermines competition and consumer trust in green or renewable products.
“Shell Australia’s statements about its emissions targets make the public think harmful products are good for the environment.
“It is clearly in the public interest to ensure big polluters don’t get away with this sort of conduct.
“Shell is one of the top 10 carbon polluters in the world, with its emissions accounting for about 1.6% of the global carbon budget.
“The conduct of this single corporation has profound consequences for the whole planet. The least it can do is tell the truth.”
UPDATE: The complaint has been dismissed by Ad Standards.