If you happened to catch this week’s episode of NPR’s On The Media, you’ll find this all very familiar.
In their leading piece this week, they investigated companies that have focused their advertising efforts on demonstrating their corporate responsibility to the environment. The British Oil Company, British Petroleum also known as BP, is an example of one such company. For the past five years or so, BP has been running regular television advertisements in an effort to re-brand themselves as “BP, Beyond Petroleum.”
While I’m very familiar with the concept of Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware), I always felt as though there needed to be truth in advertising. Otherwise it would be deemed false-advertising, right?
According to the piece, and I found this to be particularly insightful, there are currently no laws on the books that prohibit companies from making partially-false claims about environmental efforts. False advertising is more geared towards competitive statements implying that your product is better than your advertisers, or statements of fact about what your product can or cannot do — not what the company itself is doing behind closed doors.
According to the trusted source of Wikipedia, BP alone was responsible for 104 oil spills between January 1997 and March 1998. Additionally, due to corrosive piplines in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in August 2006 the company spilled over 1 million litres (~264,000 Gallons) of oil on Alaska’s North Slope.
In July of 2006, BP admitted, after the news was leaked to journalists, that it was facing criminal charges for allowing 270,000 gallons of crude oil to seep across the Alaskan tundra, one of the world’s most sensitive habitats. Environmental advocates pointed to the relative lack of press coverage about the spill as evidence that BP had successfully “greenwashed” its image while continuing environmentally unsound practices.
Now, if this doesn’t get your goat, I don’t know what will. Call me a sucker, Prior to this report, I had always believed that BP was trying to do the right thing. Now, I’m not so sure. The next time I see a BP, Beyond Petroleum, Advertisement. I’ll likely have to throw something.