”Greenwashing” – is the process of a company deceiving the public by representing products and services as more sustainable and environmentally friendly than are to make more sales. This topic is relevant more than ever as recent media covers growing environmental and climate concerns. The EU has recently introduced a new law hoping to eliminate greenwashing among companies and organizations. This law will impact the aviation, food and beverage industries, household items, and more markets to consumers. FischTank PR has been active in the climate tech sphere for over a decade, advocating and helping advance companies that develop technologies and processes that promote sustainability and improve community health. 

Nearly 300 Agencies—and 6 Major Holding Companies—Are Working for Fossil Fuel Clients | AdWeek 

“Even as climate change becomes more devastatingly apparent—and Big Oil’s role in it increasingly irrefutable—major polluters like Exxon, Shell, BP, Chevron and Saudi Aramco still have the world’s biggest advertising and public relations firms in their corner.

Industry activist group Clean Creatives today released its third annual F-List, which names 294 agencies that worked for fossil fuel companies in 2022 and 2023. It identified those relationships through public disclosures, lobbying reports, agency websites, awards submissions, portfolio sites and LinkedIn.

So far, over 700 agencies, 1,900 individual creatives and 55 creators have signed Clean Creatives’ pledge to turn down work for fossil fuel companies, trade associations or front groups.”

Deutsche Bank’s DWS to pay $25mn to settle SEC probes | Financial Times

“German asset manager DWS has agreed to pay $19mn to settle charges brought by the US securities regulator over greenwashing allegations, the watchdog’s highest penalty related to environmental, social and governance criteria against an investment adviser. 

The company, which is majority owned by Deutsche Bank, was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday for alleged misstatements linked to its ESG investments. It was also accused of anti-money laundering violations in a separate enforcement action, bringing the total penalty to $25mn.

DWS agreed to the penalties without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings. The company said it was “pleased” to have resolved the matter, adding that the SEC found no misstatements linked to its financial disclosures or its funds’ prospectuses. The $19mn payment is in line with a provision over the matter that the asset manager disclosed in July alongside its half-year numbers”.

US SEC cracks down on funds “greenwashing” with new investment requirement | Reuters

“Wall Street’s top regulator on Wednesday adopted a new rule cracking down on so-called “greenwashing” and other deceptive or misleading marketing practices by U.S. investment funds.

It takes aim at a boom in funds that have tried to exploit investor interest in environmental, social and governance, or ESG, investing with names that do not accurately reflect its investments or strategies.

Financial reform advocates say billions of dollars are now invested in popular funds that may actually support fossil fuel production and do not meet the ESG goals suggested by their names, which can change frequently.

In a concession to industry, the change will allow 90 days, rather than the originally proposed 30, for corrective action if funds fall out of compliance with the 80% standard”.

Asset managers turn to ‘green hushing’ on sustainable funds | Financial Times

“Forty-four sustainable funds removed the label from their brand name during the first half of 2023, in contrast to 2022, when 99 funds added “sustainable” to their name, according to data from consultancy Broadridge.

Industry participants have blamed the lack of specific methodology for the calculation of sustainable investments under the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation, as well as the publication of an EU consultation regarding sustainable fund names.

Under the proposed guidelines, a fund would only be able to use ESG-related words in its name if 80 per cent of its investments met environmental or social characteristics or sustainable investment objectives.

The “downplaying of ESG credentials” by managers, known as “green hushing” and “green bleaching”, now appears to be as significant an issue as greenwashing, he said”.

TotalEnergies gears up for greenwashing at its investor day | The Canary

“French fossil fuel major TotalEnergies will host its next ‘Investor Day’ on Wednesday 27 September. As it says on the tin, the company will court financial support from prospective investors at the event.

However, TotalEnergies’ green energy trajectory pales in comparison to the company’s fossil fuel expansion plans. By 2030, its solar, wind, and low carbon energy – which includes biofuels, biogas, and hydrogen – will make up just 20% of its energy mix.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas major is intending to develop new fossil fuel projects. Oil Change International has estimated that its expansion plans between 2023 and 2025 alone will generate over 1,600Mt of carbon dioxide over the new project’s lifetime.

Naturally, the company’s 80/20 fossil fuel/green energy mix will also fail to lower its emissions. Despite the vital need for emissions reductions from all sectors, TotalEnergies’s plans will maintain its output at the same level to 2030.

Total has become notorious for its involvement in the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in Uganda and Tanzania. The 1,443km-long pipeline has been linked to attacks on human rights defenders. The project has put the company in the infamous position of sitting among the top five worst companies for attacks against rights defenders in 2022”.

California Climate Bill Will Make Some Company Carbon Footprints More Visible | Newsweek

“Climate advocates say first-of-its-kind legislation approved in California will push big businesses to green their operations by making carbon emissions data public.

Wiener, a Democrat who represents San Francisco, was one of the architects of Senate Bill 253, which will require companies with more than $1 billion in sales doing business in California to publicly disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and those along their supply chains.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is working on emissions disclosure rules that would apply nationally. However, that rulemaking has been delayed and, Wiener explained, the SEC rules will only include publicly traded companies, while the California bill also covers those that are privately held. Wiener estimates 5,500 companies will be required to disclose their emissions.

The bill’s reach along company supply chains also expands its potential influence, as it makes visible not only the emissions from operations that a company directly controls, but also those generated by its suppliers. These so-called Scope 3 Emissions are sometimes the largest sources of a company’s greenhouse gases, creating a hidden carbon footprint.

The emissions disclosure bill was approved with a comfortable 49-20 margin in California’s lower chamber on September 11, and won final approval 27-8 in the state Senate the next day, despite opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, the lobbying group for oil companies, Wiener said. He credited the success to support from major corporations already taking voluntary action on emissions reporting, including Apple, Levi’s, Google, Salesforce and Microsoft”.

Companies are claiming to be ‘plastic neutral.’ Is it greenwashing? | Grist 

“A growing number of companies are claiming “plastic neutrality” through the purchase of so-called plastic credits, tradable units that typically each represent 1 metric ton of plastic waste that’s been removed from the environment. These credits, sold by dozens of unregulated businesses and nonprofits, are supposed to complement companies’ internal plastic reduction strategies while also funding waste collection in the developing world. 

Indeed, many plastic crediting programs have a prominent section of their website explaining how companies can use credits to make green marketing claims, or affix proprietary labels to their products. Repurpose Global notes on its website that eco-friendly labels help products “scale significantly faster.” PCX, another crediting organization, encourages brands to “wear your badge with pride,” because doing so will help consumers “know you’re the real deal.”

Some crediting organizations are trying to distance themselves from those controversies by moving away from neutrality claims and toward something called a “contribution model,” in which companies pay for plastic credits without the goal of claiming plastic neutrality. Rather than bearing a “net-zero plastic” label, a product might read, “This company paid for the removal of 5 tons of plastic litter in 2022.”

Environmental advocates, on the other hand, say it’s the other way around: Even the sincerest efforts to ramp up waste collection and recycling will be futile in the face of the plastic industry’s plans to triple plastic production by 2060 — a scenario that’s expected to generate 44 million metric tons of plastic pollution annually. “If reduction and cleanup efforts are pursued simultaneously, but cleanup efforts are getting even an equal amount of attention, then those are resources and efforts that are misplaced,” said Budris, with Just Zero”.

Italian Oil Giant Eni Knew About Climate Change More Than 50 Years Ago, Report Reveals | DeSmog

“The two groups had previously unearthed a 1970 report by Eni’s Isvet research centre that warned of the “catastrophic” climate risk from the build-up of carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by burning fossil fuels. They also found a 1978 report produced by Eni’s Tecneco company that included a projection of how much atmospheric CO2 levels would rise by the turn of the 21st century.

Last week, California filed what may be the most consequential climate lawsuit yet against a range of Carbon Majors, including Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and BP for covering up what they knew about emissions and misleading the public for decades about the climate crisis. Speaking about the fossil fuel defendants, California Governor Gavin Newsom charged, “They’ve been playing all of us for fools,” and noted that the legal action could “illuminate their deception and their lies over 50, 60, 70 years.”

Eni also continued to be a member of IPIECA – the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association. Starting in the late 1980s, the organization  coordinated Big Oil’s efforts to delay fossil fuel controls around the world (and weaken the foundational UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) by emphasizing scientific uncertainty and misleading the public about the industry’s own knowledge.

In Eni’s statement about the new report, the company said, “For the benefit of inevitable journalistic brevity, we would like to mention that the logic laid out by the NGOs is devoid of any foundation or knowledge of the industrial and technological history of energy systems, as well as the evolution of economic and industrial systems and the energy mix required for their functioning. Whoever in the last 50 years has used fossil fuels would have ignored such ‘alarms’ and would be similarly responsible for their emissions generated with their use.”

Counter greenwashing with proactive media relations

Unfortunately, global attempts to greenwash only harm our industry and collective goal of a more sustainable environment and society. FischTank PR works with brands dedicated to decarbonizing global energy production and ultimately achieving net zero goals. For those looking to network with us and drive quality media coverage for topics and clean technologies that hasten a clean energy transition, please reach out to [email protected].

***Guest post from FischTank PR interns: Veronica Riga and Bianca Roque ***

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