World's biggest coal company told to stop misleading advertising campaign
Today, the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that WWF has won its case against Peabody Energy, the world's biggest coal company, on the grounds of misleading advertising. As a result Peabody has been asked to stop publishing the current form of an advertisement claiming that coal burns cleanly.
"WWF is delighted with the outcome of this case. Companies trading and selling polluting energies have a responsibility to be open and honest about their activities and products. The last thing they should be doing is trying to claim spurious environmental benefits from coal consumption. This merely damages the already tarnished reputation of a struggling sector," said Tony Long, Director of WWF European Policy Office.
In the complaint, WWF's European Policy Office argued that Peabody's advertisement, published in the European edition of the Financial Times in February this year, as part of the company's new public relations campaign "Advanced Energy for Life", breached several rules of the advertising code regarding misleading advertising and environmental claims.
WWF highlighted that the term "clean coal", used by Peabody in their advertising campaign, was misleading and implied that the advertiser's impact on the environment was less damaging than was actually the case. This argument was upheld by the UK ASA, who "understood that this technology was not able to prevent CO2 from being emitted during the use of coal, relying instead on carbon capture and storage, and that although emissions such as sulphur dioxide were reduced, they were still produced".
The UK ASA ruled that without further information given, in the context of the ad, and particularly when followed by another reference to "clean, modern energy", consumers were likely to interpret the word 'clean' as an absolute claim meaning that "clean coal" processes did not produce CO2 or other emissions. They therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad has therefore breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading Advertising), and 11.1, 11.2 and 11.3 (Environmental Claims). As a result it has been concluded that the ad must not appear again in its current form. Peabody has been informed of this to ensure that future ads do not state or imply that their technologies are emission-free or similar, unless they can demonstrate that this is indeed the case.
"Peabody and the coal industry should take the ASA ruling seriously and instead of branding and promoting products as clean, they must take real steps in cleaning up their operations instead - we will be keeping our eyes peeled in the media for other examples of misleading advertising", concluded Mr Darek Urbaniak, Energy Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office.
Note to the editors:
Energy Policy Officer
WWF European Policy Office
Phone:+32 2 761 04 21
Mobile:+32 4 95 460 258
WWF European Policy Office
Phone: +32 2 740 09 25
Mobile: + 32 477 393 400