By Matthew Green
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s advertising watchdog has ruled Royal Dutch Shell’s ad campaign on petrol pumps promising customers they can “drive carbon neutral” is acceptable, following complaints.
The Anglo-Dutch oil major said in October it would become the first petrol retailer in Britain to offset the carbon dioxide emissions from customers’ fuel purchases at its service stations at no extra cost by backing forestry schemes.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said in March it had launched an investigation into an accompanying advertising campaign after receiving complaints from people who thought it was misleading given the role of oil in climate change.
The regulator said on Wednesday it was still investigating 17 complaints about a radio commercial backing the campaign.
However, it added it was satisfied by the claims made in adverts for the “drive carbon neutral” campaign on petrol pumps on garage forecourts, which had prompted eight complaints from members of the public.
“Based on the content of the ad and our understanding of the scheme, and the work we have already carried out in this area, we concluded the ad was unlikely to mislead consumers,” said Matt Wilson, the ASA’s media and public affairs manager.
Wilson said the ASA could not give an estimate for when it would rule on the radio component of the campaign but would aim to reach a conclusion as soon as possible.
Like other carbon offsetting schemes, Shell’s offer rests on the principle that companies can neutralise the impact of their emissions by paying to support forests or other ecosystems capable of absorbing an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.
Critics of the schemes say they give the false impression that it is possible to take meaningful action to slow global warming without following the advice of climate scientists to rapidly scale back the use of all fossil fuels.
Last week, the ASA said it had informally resolved complaints against an advertising campaign by Saudi Aramco after 61 people registered their objections to its use of the word “sustainability” in the context of the oil industry.
“We approached the advertiser with the concerns that had been raised. In its response to us, Aramco confirmed that it had withdrawn the campaign,” Wilson said.
(Reporting by Matthew Green; Editing by Jan Harvey and Mark Potter)