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ClientEarth vs BP

Case overview

Date filed 5 December 2019
Current status Rejected
Issue BP's misleading fossil fuel advertising campaigns
Summary of the case On 5 December 2019 a specific instance was filed by ClientEarth against BP at the UK NCP. The complaint concerns activities of BP in its advertising campaigns. In January 2019, BP launched a major international advertising campaign under the titles "Keep Advancing" and "Possibilities Everywhere". The complainants argue that BP's advertising campaign gives a false impression of the relative scale of renewable and low-carbon energy in BP's business. The adverts also assert that increases in global primary energy demand are desirable and inevitable for progress and development, while omitting information about the negative impacts of climate change casued by the use of fossil fuels. In addition, the adverts make misleading claims about the lifecycle emissions and environmental impacts of gas, while representing gas as an ideal partner, that performs a backup function, to renewable energy.

The complainants argue that BP's campaign is in conflict with the OECD Guidelines chapters concerning consumer interests and environment. ClientEarth is seeking the UK NCP's good offices to encourage BP to:
- withdraw and cease publication of the identified advertisements and public communications until revised to conform with the OECD Guidelines;
- make a public statement explaining the withdrawal and/or correction of its advertisements;
- ensure that all future advertising and public communications include a warning or a disclaimer that the use of the company's oil and gas products creates GHG emissions that contribute to global climate change; and
- make a public commitment that its future communications on climate and environment-related issues are consistent with the OECD Guidelines and introduce a clear internal policy to this effect.
Developments/Outcome As part of the initial assessment process, the UK NCP offered each party a meeting to explain the process which they both accepted. Meetings were held in January 2020.

Before BP sent its’ response about the complaint to the NCP on 21 February 2020, they announced on 12 February 2020 to end the advertising campaing that was the main subject of hte complaint. BP also announced it would not replace the campaign under the company’s new policy promising an end to ‘corporate reputation advertising’. BP's CEO also committed BP to redirecting its advertising resources towards advocating for progressive climate policies.

Following this announcement the UK NCP considered that it did not serve the purpose and effectiveness of the Guidelines to continue with ClientEarth’s complaint. The UK NCP therefore decided not to accept the complaint for mediation or further examination.

Yet, the decision sets a precedent for complaints against corporate greenwashing as the UK NCP has assessed ClientEarth’s complaint as being material and substantiated, despite the complaint not proceeding due to BP ending its advertising campaign.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
Case keywords Le changement climatique

NCP Information

NCP name National Contact Point United Kingdom
NCP address London, United Kingdom
NCP website
Other NCPs involved



Company Information

Company responsible BP p.l.c.
Company address 1 St James's Square
SW1Y 4PD London
United Kingdom
Company website
Company in violation
Country of operations United Kingdom
Other companies involved

Timeline of developments

Date Actor Action Description Document
16 June 2020 National Contact Point United Kingdom reject The NCP rejects the complaint desite having assessed it as material and substantiated  
12 February 2020 BP p.l.c. initial assessment BP withdraws its advertising campaign  
30 January 2020 National Contact Point United Kingdom NCP meets with ClientEarth  
9 January 2020 National Contact Point United Kingdom initial assessment NCP meets with BP  
4 December 2019 ClientEarth file Complaint filed to UK NCP. download pdf (2690Kb)  

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