Shell’s “Tomorrow’s Solutions” Ad Ruled Misleading

Sustainablemedia Aug. 13, 2008 – Sustainable Life Media

In the second such dust-up in the space of a year, Shell has been taken to task by the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over ads claiming that its investments in a Canadian oil sands deposit and a massive oil refinery are helping to build a "profitable and sustainable future."

The World Wildlife fund lodged a formal complaint with the ASA, accusing Shell of misleading the public in a new advertising campaign. In the ads, the oil giant pointed to its work developing the largest oil refinery in the U.S. and mining for petroleum in Canada as examples of environmental responsibility.


In response, Shell claimed that though the its new U.S. refinery would increase production of oil, advanced technologies built into the refinery would lower the CO2 emissions of production on a per-barrel basis. The company defended its work in the oil sands of Canada by insisting that the work was being done responsibly.

Shell’s arguments failed to sway ASA, which ruled the ads misleading.

"We considered that although emissions at the refinery might be reduced on a per-barrel basis, the increased production of the refinery by 325,000 barrels per day would increase the total overall emissions from the…refinery," the ASA stated in its ruling.

"We understood that approved oil sands mining projects were licensed to divert 370 million cubic meters of fresh water per year from the Athabasca River, but despite some recycling, almost all of the water withdrawn for oil sands operations ended up in waste tailing ponds," the ASA ruling continued.

Shell has agreed not to print the ad in its current form again.

Last November, Shell was ordered by the ASA to remove a TV ad which was also ruled "likely to be misleading." In it, the company showed an oil refinery sprouting flowers.

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