ASA finds in favor of Shell regarding CO2 claims in ad

By Erin Voegele | December 19, 2011

On Dec. 14, the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority issued adjudication in favor of Shell International Ltd. in response to a complaint filed against one of its advertisements by ActionAid UK, a charity organization. The complaint challenged whether claims Shell made about the carbon dioxide reduction benefits of its biofuels were misleading.

The advertisement  addressed by the complaint was a print ad published in a vehicle magazine. According to information released by the ASA,  text of the ad read, “LET'S GROW OUR OWN FUEL. LET'S GO. Helping to create new energy sources such as biofuels is something we're proud of at Shell. This renewable energy is one of the most effective ways of reducing CO2 from cars and trucks today. As one of the world's biggest distributors of biofuels we're playing a leading role in powering vehicles for now and for the future. Let's use cleaner energy. Let's go. [website address].”

The complaint specifically challenged  whether the claim, “This renewable energy is one of the most effective ways of reducing CO2 from cars and trucks today,” was misleading. According to the adjudication, the group filing the complaint believed that evidence showed that biofuels did not reduce carbon dioxide emissions when the full life-cycle of the fuel was accounted for.

However, Shell noted that there is consensus between three different legislative bodies that biofuels do reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and that the claim is backed by a large body of evidence. The company provided a list of greenhouse gas emissions savings that are achieved by a range of biofuels sold both in the EU and in the U.S. The values provided by Shell were based on seed-to-wheel life-cycle analysis, and Shell noted that the data it supplied was developed by the EU Commission and is based on a large body of scientific evidence.

According to the ASA, Shell’s response to the complaint also addressed the issue of indirect land use. According to Shell, there is no global consensus on how indirect land use change can be measured and that debate on the issue is ongoing. However, Shell also noted that the U.S. and European governments are satisfied that emissions reductions savings do arise from qualifying biodiesel, and that their use has been mandated accordingly. Furthermore, Shell pointed out that biofuels derived from waste products are not applicable to the impacts of land use change, neither direct nor indirect.



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