Supermajor BP has changed its corporate advertising strategy as part of its new energy transition plans, removing an advert with low-carbon claims that was called out for “greenwashing”.

The advertising campaign, called Possibilities Everywhere, was the focus of a high-level complaint by environmental lawyers with non-profit legal group ClientEarth who alleged it was misleading, given the company’s continued focus on oil and gas.

The campaign was BP’s biggest marketing blitz in a decade, with adverts shown across billboards, newspapers and television in the UK, US and Europe as well as on social media and online.

ClientEarth filed the complaint under OECD guidelines, an international set of rules governing corporate conduct, and called for regulation covering all fossil fuel advertising, which it argued should come with “a tobacco-style health warning about the dangers to people and the planet”.

The complaint came as BP released the advert focused on its low-carbon energy, although “96% of the company’s annual spend is on oil and gas”, ClientEarth argued.

The group also claimed that “emissions from BP’s products make it one of the world’s biggest polluters” and that the ad campaign created a “potentially misleading impression” that would distract the public from BP’s core business of hydrocarbons.

BP initially rejected claims that its advertising campaign was misleading. However, this week it said it will be ceasing the campaign and will not replace it, as part of its new net zero ambitions.

ClientEarth climate accountability lead Sophie Marjanac said: “BP appears to have accepted that its approach to advertising was not in line with its stated ambition of helping the world get to net zero and that it was primarily aimed at improving the company’s reputation.

“BP’s wider statement about its net zero ambition for emissions associated with its oil and gas production is a welcome step change for the company. However, given the company itself acknowledges that there have been perceived inconsistencies between what it says and what it does, we will be looking forward to further detail about exactly how it will decarbonise in line with the Paris Agreement,” Marjanac said.

“We welcome the company talking about declining oil and gas production over time, but there needs to be more explanation about how offsets and carbon capture and storage can realistically deliver the company’s decarbonisation ambitions,” she added.

This week was a big one for BP, as it raised the industry bar with its commitment to zero emissions, including those of its final consumers, and plans to reduce exploration.

BP's new chief executive Bernard Looney said the company has already reduced exploration spending by 66% during the long cycle of low prices and promised that expenditure under this item will not creep up again when oil prices recover.

He also promised that renewable and low-carbon energy will account for a higher proportion of the company’s investments, but left detailed numbers for later. The company earmarked a modest $500 million to $700 million for investment in renewables in 2018.

Its new corporate advertising plans, which led BP to remove the Possibilities Everywhere advert, will see corporate advertising stop unless it is to promote climate policies that support net zero, the company said.

BP’s shift to low carbon was widely welcomed because it included changes beyond its core oil and gas business — a move other industry players have not yet made.

Professor David Elmes, an energy expert at Warwick Business School who started his career with BP in the 1980s, said: “BP point out that emissions from their operations are 55 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent gases today, but the emissions from their customers using of the oil and gas they sell is over six times more, at 360 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent gases.

“So, BP aren’t ducking the bigger challenge of emissions from how their fuels are used. That suggests a greater ambition to change what the company does,” Elmes said.





In February 2020 committed to be a net zero company by 2050 or sooner on an absolute basis. Although it should be noted this only applies to upstream volumes, which are smaller than total marketed volumes.


In December 2019 committed to net zero emissions by 2050, based on carbon intensity (which is the same as saying net zero in absolute terms).


In December 2019 announced an aim to reduce the net carbon footprint of its energy products by c50% by 2050, and by c20% by 2035.


In February 2020 committed to reducing the net carbon intensity of energy produced by >50% by 2050.


In February 2020 announced an ambition to reduce the carbon intensity of products sold by 40% by 2040.


In March 2019 set out a target to reduce upstream emissions to net zero by 2030 (includes Scope 1 only).


No long-term emission reduction ambition or target.


No long-term emission reduction ambition or target.