Shell's misleading ad: complaint submitted

8 May 2007

Oil refineries emit smoke not flowers

May 8, 2007, BRUSSELS (BELGIUM), LONDON (UK), THE HAGUE (THE NETHERLANDS) - Complaints are being filed today, May 8, in three European countries against a shameless advert that makes exaggerated and misleading green claims about oil giant Shell's operations.

Friends of the Earth Europe is filing simultaneous complaints to the national advertising standards authorities of Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK about Shell's advert which depicts the outline of an oil refinery emitting flowers rather than smoke and claims that it uses its "waste CO2 to grow flowers and [its] waste sulphur to make concrete"[1].

Friends of the Earth Europe is objecting to the overall message and imagery used. The advert says 'Don't throw anything away, there is no away' - which may be true, but the implication that Shell carries out its operations in line with this is false and misleading. Shell's advertis also misleading because it suggests that Shell uses all of its waste CO2 to grow flowers while in reality it uses less than 0.5 percent of it to grow flowers.

Shell boasts that at a refinery in the Netherlands, CO2 is piped to heat greenhouses, saving 350,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. This is only 0.325 per cent of Shell's direct emissions. According to Shell's own figures, it emitted 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005 [2].

Paul de Clerck , Friends of the Earth Europe Corporates Campaigner said:

"Shell is one of the world's dirtiest companies. People living next door to Shell's refineries around the world can vouch for that. Shell should spend money cleaning up its mess, not on deceiving the public with expensive, dishonest adverts. We hope that the advertising standard authorities will take immediate action to withdraw the advert and order Shell to air a correction to the audiences reached with the misleading advert."

There are people suffering from the effects of the pollution emitted by Shell's refineries in Nigeria, South Africa, the US and the Philippines, among others.

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.

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.

shell misleading ad



[1] The Advertisement can be found at the Shell website

The full text of the complaint filed in Belgium (in English) can be found at:

[2] Latest available figures - from Shell's Sustainability Report