FOE: Shell advert is ruled 'misleading'

Text from: Friends Of The Earth Press Release, November 11 2007

The Advertising Standards Authority today, 7 November 2007, upheld a complaint from Friends of the Earth that a Shell advert made misleading green claims about the oil giant's operations. Shell's advert depicted the outline of an oil refinery emitting flowers rather than smoke and claimed that Shell uses its "waste CO2 to grow flowers and waste sulphur to make super strong concrete."

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that Shell's claim that it uses "waste CO2 to grow flowers", especially in conjunction with the advert's headline "Don't throw anything away, there is no away" was misleading, as readers were likely to interpret this as Shell using all, or at least the majority of its waste carbon dioxide (CO2) to grow flowers. In reality Shell uses less than 0.5% of its waste CO2 for growing flowers. [1]

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint that Shell uses "waste sulphur to make concrete", ruling it "misleading". The ASA said readers were likely to interpret this claim as meaning Shell used all, or at least the majority, of its waste sulphur to make super-strong concrete. Yet only a small proportion of waste sulphur is used, when compared to the global activities of Shell. [2]

Hannah Griffiths, Friends of the Earth's Corporates Campaigner, said:

"We're delighted that Shell has been brought to book for its misleading claims. Shell is one of the world's dirtiest companies, as people living next door to Shell's refineries around the world know only too well. Companies making false green claims do nothing but make the situation worse as they try to pull the wool over people's eyes and lull them into a false sense of security. It's a shame that the ASA does not have more teeth and that Shell wasn't fined for its deceptions."

Communities all over the world are suffering the effects of Shell's dirty operations and are urging people in the UK not to believe everything that Shell says. [3]

Desmond D'sa from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance said:

"With its dirty operations, Shell is wreaking havoc in my community with people ill and dying from the pollution Shell causes. When I saw this advert I was deeply offended. Well done to the ASA for standing up to Shell"


[1] Shell's figures for the amount of carbon dioxide used for growing flowers: At a refinery in the Netherlands, Shell pipes carbon dioxide to heat greenhouses, saving 350,000 tonnes a year. This is only 0.325 per cent of Shell's direct carbon dioxide emissions from its operations. According to Shell's own figures, it emitted 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005. (Latest available figures at the time the complaint was made - from Shell's 2005 Sustainability Report

[2] In Durban (South Africa), for example, Shell emits 7,300 tonnes of sulphur dioxide a year, much of which it could recover and reuse. People living near Shell's refinery suffer from high rates of asthma and respiratory diseases, thought to be caused as a result of breathing in high levels of sulphur dioxide.

In Nigeria, Shell wastes gas, a by product of oil, by flaring it, despite having been ordered to stop by the Nigerian High Court. Shell's illegal flares emit sulphur which causes acid rain and devastates the environment and corrodes people's homes.

[3] Testimonies from people in communities affected by Shell are available at

Source: FOE