Greenpeace Canada files Competition Bureau complaint against misleading Shell advertising

TORONTO – Today, Greenpeace Canada submitted a formal complaint to the Competition Bureau alleging Shell Canada’s “Drive carbon-neutral” advertising misleads the public. 

In their complaint, Greenpeace challenges the credibility of Shell’s carbon “offset” programme in particular and identifies potential violations of the Competition Act for materially false advertisements. 

Amongst its marketing tactics, Shell’s “Drive carbon neutral” stands out for the extraordinary claim that all emissions from the company’s fossil fuel can be offset through forest restoration and other initiatives. The complaint provides a science-based rebuttal to the oil giant’s assertion that forest-based offsets make their fossil fuel products carbon-neutral. This includes:  

  • Transparency – there is insufficient information on Shell Canada’s “Drive Carbon Neutral” website to determine if the accounting process is rigorous and reliable; 
  • Quality – Shell is using offsets from a number of forest-based projects which suffer from well-documented shortcomings summarized in the complaint; and   
  • Business as usual – the complaint alleges that by using offsets as a promotional tool, Shell avoids real climate action such as reducing emissions and fossil fuel production. 

Shell’s “carbon neutral” marketing has been scrutinized in other countries also, most notably this summer when the Dutch national advertising agency told Shell to take down its advertisements because they could not be substantiated. 

Given the urgency of climate change, Canadians have become very attentive to the environment in their purchasing decisions. Greenpeace’s complaint describes how this can be exploited by big polluters like Shell in the form of greenwash to improve their marketplace advantage. This highlights the essential role of the Competition Bureau in ensuring consumers aren’t being misled. 

According to Nature and Food campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, Salomé Sane: 

“Shell’s advertising misleads Canadians into thinking their fossil fuels can be made ‘carbon neutral’. But their forest-offsets simply cannot compensate for the company’s enormous greenhouse gas emissions and continued fossil fuel production. This kind of greenwash only distracts from urgent emissions reductions. We need to use the momentum of COP26 to end fossil fuel exploration and restore nature at the same time, not play them against each other.

Forests are carbon sinks, but they are also home to many Indigenous Peoples and hotspots of biodiversity. Protecting them means respecting Indigenous rights and knowledge, not handing over the keys to big polluters.”

Note to editors: 

The full complaint can be accessed here.  

The media backgrounder is available here

ENDS

For media inquiries, please contact:

Dina Ni, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Canada

dina.ni@greenpeace.org; +1 (416) 820-2148