Saudi Aramco removes ‘sustainable’ oil adverts after complaints
The world’s biggest oil company has withdrawn an advertising campaign that boasted it was “powering a more sustainable future”, after dozens of complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency.
Saudi Aramco claimed in the advert that “real sustainability doesn’t wait until tomorrow”, adding “this is real energy”.
The ASA said it had received more than 60 complaints about the campaign, which appeared in print and online earlier this year. It contacted the company, which responded by saying it had withdrawn the campaign.
Colin Baines, from the group Stop Funding Heat, which campaigns for environmentally responsible advertising, was one of those who raised concerns.
“It is very welcome that Aramco has withdrawn its advertisement campaign making preposterous claims of ‘real sustainability’ and ‘powering a more sustainable future’,” he said.
“These ads were self evidently ‘materially misleading’ and therefore in breach of ASA rules. As my complaint stated, Aramco is advertising crude oil, which meets no definition of being sustainable.”
Last year the Guardian revealed that Saudi Aramco had produced almost 5% of all global emissions since 1965 and was on course to massively expand its oil and gas operations in the next decade.
Baines added: “Its claim to be committed to ‘reducing greenhouse gas emissions and powering a more sustainable future’ is the antithesis of reality when it plans to increase crude oil production and carbon emissions considerably to 2030.”
Saudi Aramco defended its record, saying it was necessary to “both meet global energy demand and lower emissions”. In a statement to the Guardian it said: “Aramco has a long-standing track record in reducing emissions from its operations. We have invested for decades in sustainable operations and have achieved the lowest carbon intensity of any major oil producer.”
The adverts appeared in The Week magazine and The Economist online at the beginning of the year. Baines said it was wrong for publications to accept them in the midst of a climate crisis.
“The running of these greenwashing advertisements is not only poor judgment on the part of the world’s largest contributor to the climate crisis, but also those publications which accepted them, raising serious questions about their internal decision-making processes.”
In a statement, the Economist said: “Advertising is not editorial content and does not imply any endorsement on our part. In the case of this particular ad, it was put on hold at the request of the client.”
The Week magazine declined to comment.
The ASA confirmed it had received 61 complaints challenging the advert’s claims about sustainability, which people said were “misleading in the context of an ad for an oil company”.
An ASA spokesperson said: “We approached the advertiser with the concerns that had been raised. In its response to us, Aramco confirmed that it had withdrawn the campaign. On that basis, we considered that the matter was resolved and have closed the case informally.”
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