Stockholm (NordSIP) – In yet another setback for greenwashers everywhere, the media is reporting of a Dutch ruling in favour of the plaintiffs in a greenwashing case brought against Royal Dutch Shell, the Dutch-British multinational oil and gas company headquartered in The Hague.
The case was brought by nine law students from the Free University in Amsterdam against the oil giant due to Shell’s ‘Drive CO2 Neutral’ advertisement campaign whereby petrol and diesel buyers can top up their purchase with an extra fee that will offset their carbon emissions. The students complained to the Netherlands’ Advertising Code Committee regarding the campaign’s suggestion that the offsetting will match the emissions generated by burning the fuel in their vehicles. They argued that the claim is unlikely to be accurate, an argument which the Committee upheld on Friday, August 27th, explaining Shell had not provided evidence of the full offsetting of emissions.
The oil giant has two weeks to formally appeal the decision. A Shell spokesperson stated that the company “takes its responsibilities as an advertiser extremely seriously” and called the campaign a “genuine and important initiative to give consumers the option to offset CO2 emissions associated with the fuel they purchase.”
Shell has not yet issued a formal response but has stated that it will “consider any necessary changes to communications.” Although the Advertising Code Committee’s ruling is not legally binding, this is the latest in an important series of rulings likely to establish useful precedents against the industrial levels of greenwashing floating around.
In a groundbreaking decision on May 26, 2021, the District Court in The Hague had already ruled against Royal Dutch Shell in the climate change case filed by environmental NGO Milieudefensie, and co-plaintifs. That decision followed the 2019 Urgenda Foudantion ruling which had found the Dutch state to be endangering Dutch citizens by failing to meet minimum CO2 emission goals to mitigate climate change. These two decisions should also be considered in light of the recent decision by the German Constitutional Court which demanded the government make its climate change plans less vague.
Coming up next, reports suggest that the net-zero plan of Australian gas producer Santos are being challenged for its claims about role that natural gas by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) – a non-profit focused on research and shareholder advocacy. The Environmental Defenders Office will act on behalf of the ACCR in the Australian federal court where these claims are being challenged.