Oil companies and their comms agencies under fire for greenwashing

By our News Team | 2022

Oil giants are ‘talking the talk’ over fossil fuels in their communications, but not ‘walking the walk’, Japanese researchers find.

Four major oil companies, as well as the international advertising and PR industries, are under fire over new claims of greenwashing made in a recently published academic study

The companies are Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. They have been labelled as greenwashers by researchers at two Japanese academic institutions, Tohoku University and Kyoto University, in a study published in the journal PLOS One

According to the researchers, the companies used terms like “climate,” “low-carbon” and “transition” more frequently in recent annual reports and devised strategies around decarbonization. But their actions on clean energy were mostly pledges and the companies remain financially reliant on fossil fuels.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

“We thus conclude that the transition to clean energy business models is not occurring, since the magnitude of investments and actions does not match discourse. Until actions and investment behaviour are brought into alignment with discourse, accusations of greenwashing appear well-founded,” the research team noted.

Using data collected from 2009–2020, the researchers found that the companies often talked about shifting to clean energy, but did not make the dramatic changes that would enable them to make a company-wide transition.

Role of PR companies and ad agencies 

In February, international news business broadcaster CNBC reported that the role of PR firms and advertising agencies in greenwashing fossil fuels has come under intense scrutiny in recent months, with several communications firms accused of obstructing climate action by spreading disinformation on behalf of their clients.

“A peer-reviewed study published late last year in the journal Climatic Change was the first to comprehensively document the role that PR firms have played in helping the world’s most profitable oil and gas companies improve their environmental image and block climate action,” CNBC said.

“It shows that energy giants have relied on PR firms and ad agencies to finesse their public messaging for more than three decades.”

The broadcaster added: “The role of PR companies in climate politics has typically been overlooked, in large part because communications firms have sought to remain in keeping with the adage that ‘the best PR is invisible PR’.”

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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.