Major oil and gas companies are spending tens of millions to publicize their environmental work, while only about a tenth of their investment goes to low-carbon development, according to a report.
An in-depth study of five oil and gas companies’ public communications by InfluenceMap, a climate finance think tank, found that 60% of advertising made at least one claim highlighting the companies’ positive climate actions. But on average, the five companies spent just 12% of their capital expenditure on low-carbon activities – and that included some gas projects.
Less than a quarter of ad materials highlighted companies’ fossil fuel activities, InfluenceMap said, suggesting companies were spending about $750 million a year on communications aimed at improving their fossil fuel credentials. climate.
Researchers reviewed 3,421 public communications materials published by BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and TotalEnergies in 2021, including articles and blogs on corporate websites, press releases, reports, speeches and corporate and CEO social media accounts.
The researchers did not examine the advertisements because it was not possible for them to obtain a complete set of data on a company’s global advertising.
They found that 60% of advertising material had at least one green claim, with the most popular centered on “energy mix transition” efforts. However, analysis of the capital expenditures of the five companies revealed that all were expected to increase oil and gas production except BP, which is expected to have similar levels in 2026 and 2021.
“Essentially, we’ve seen that big oil companies are spending millions of dollars on this green PR, and it’s a really systematic campaign to portray themselves as pro-climate,” said Faye Holder, program manager at InfluenceMap. “But at the same time, they’re still pushing to lock in fossil fuels and invest in a truly unsustainable energy future with high levels of oil and gas and very low spending on low-carbon activities.”
None of the “About Us” pages on the companies’ websites describe them as oil and gas companies, Holder said. “The best example, in my mind, was BP – on their ‘Who We Are’ page they only mention the word ‘oil’ twice. And it’s at the bottom of the page, under a section called ‘Our Story’, where they describe how they’ve always been an energy company in transition, from coal to oil to gas and that low carbon future. .
“So it’s very clear that they want to decouple from oil and gas and tie into this climate agenda.”
Shell made the most green claims, with 70% of public communications emphasizing pro-environment activities, while only 10% of capital expenditure was invested in low-carbon projects, which included some gas projects, according to the InfluenceMap report. ExxonMobil made green claims in 70% of its communications, while devoting 8% of its capital expenditure to low carbon. For TotalEnergies, 62% of communications have green claims, with 25% of capital investments going towards low carbon.
Shell disputed the findings, saying InfluenceMap failed to account for low-carbon businesses included in its marketing division, including electric vehicle charging and low-carbon fuels, and a joint venture in Brazil which is one of the world’s leading producers of bioethanol. The company has previously said more than 35% of capital spending in 2022 will go to low-carbon energy, as well as “non-energy products”.
“We are already investing billions of dollars in low-carbon energy,” a spokesperson said. “To help change the energy mix sold by Shell, we must rapidly develop these new activities. This means informing our customers through advertising or social media of the low-carbon solutions we currently offer or are developing, so they can switch when the time is right.
“The world will still need oil and gas for many years to come. By investing in it, we can provide the energy people will still have to rely on, while low-carbon alternatives are brought to scale.
An ExxonMobil spokesperson said, “ExxonMobil continues to mitigate emissions from its operations and has achieved its 2025 emissions reduction plans four years ahead of schedule.
“These advancements support the company’s more aggressive 2030 emissions reduction plans and its ambition to achieve net Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions from operated assets by 2050. ExxonMobil is investing more than $15 billion by 2027 in emissions reduction initiatives, and we expect investments to triple by 2025.”
TotalEnergies, Chevron and BP did not respond to requests for comment.
Oil and gas companies’ green investments don’t match advertising promise – study