Oil giants spend more on PR and less on climate-change action – claim

By our News Team | 2022

Oil companies spend big on ‘green’ PR, but only 12% of their average capital expenditure on low-carbon investments, research finds.

The world’s largest oil companies are spending huge sums to portray themselves as taking action on climate change, but they are spending comparatively far less on actually developing low-carbon activities that will benefit the planet.

A new analysis by InfluenceMap, an energy and climate think-tank based in the UK, claims the climate-positive messaging by BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and TotalEnergies does not tally with their actions on the ground.


Image by Marcin from Pixabay

“These companies talk about cutting emissions and transitioning the energy mix, but at the same time continue to invest heavily in new fossil fuels. While this PR strategy might convince some people, it doesn’t change the fact that these companies are out of step with science-based pathways to net zero,” said Faye Holder, a spokesperson for InfluenceMap.

She added: “The world’s big oil and gas companies are spending huge amounts of time and money talking up their ‘green’ credentials, while their business investments and lobbying activities tell a very different story.”

The think-tank’s research analysed 3,421 individual evidence items of public communication from the big oil giants during 2021. These included company and chief executive social media accounts, press releases, speeches and secondary websites intended for outreach purposes.

Categorised each message based on its narrative

It then categorised each item based on its narrative, noting that some items contained multiple messages (for example, both ‘green’ and pro-oil claims).

Overall, the report shows 60% of public messages contained at least one ‘green’ claim, such as emissions-reduction targets, transitioning the energy mix or promoting fossil gas as part of a clean-energy solution.

The report concludes there is a “systematic misalignment” between the business models and lobbying activities of oil’s big players when compared with their public relations strategies, and highlights that several of these companies are forecast to expand oil and gas production through to 2026.

In a statement to broadcaster CNN, a Shell spokesperson said the company was “already investing billions of dollars in lower-carbon energy”.

“To help alter the mix of energy Shell sells, we need to grow these new businesses rapidly,” the spokesperson said. “That means letting our customers know through advertising or social media what lower-carbon solutions we offer now or are developing, so they can switch when the time is right for them.”

A TotalEnergies spokesperson told CNN, “Our public announcements policy reflects the transformation of TotalEnergies in[to] a multi-energy company.”