Misleading Environmental Claims: Activists Challenge Aramco and F1

New allegations of greenwashing against Formula One and Saudi Aramco: climate activists denounce the use of ambiguous terminology and lack of scientific support in their advertising

Climate activists have raised new allegations against Saudi Aramco, the oil giant, and Formula One, accusing them of greenwashing through “misleading” advertising about fuels. Complaints have been lodged with British and Dutch regulatory authorities by activist groups such as the New Weather Institute, Fossil Free Football, and Reclame Fossielvrij.

Saudi Aramco is accused of portraying itself as a champion of “sustainable” fuels, despite the vast majority (99.99%) of its production being fossil fuels. The advertisements have been described as “misleading” and accused of using confusing terminology to promote fuels that activists believe are not a scalable solution for the decarbonization of transportation.

The accusation also extends to Formula One, with activists claiming it has lobbied the European Commission to weaken plans to phase out internal combustion engines (ICE) in favor of its main sponsor Aramco.

Ambiguous Use of Terminology and Lack of Scientific Support

The controversy began in 2020 when F1 and Aramco signed a sponsorship deal worth approximately 42 million euros per year, plus 60 million euros for each race. However, these advertisements are said to have conveyed misleading information about the fuels used in racing cars.

At last year’s COP28, Saudi Arabia’s plan to artificially increase oil production and promote internal combustion vehicles came to light. Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, is among the main culprits.

Complaints filed with the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and its Dutch counterpart aim to highlight the “misleading” claims of Aramco and F1, emphasizing the ambiguous use of terminology and the lack of scientific support for environmental claims.

The New Weather Institute, along with other activist groups, previously filed a similar complaint against FIFA regarding misleading claims about the carbon neutrality of the Qatar World Cup. Despite pressure, the Swiss regulatory authority stated it could not judge the accuracy of carbon emission estimates.

Formula One responded by stating its belief in the potential of sustainable fuels for the decarbonization of vehicles by 2035, but activists remain skeptical, emphasizing the need for accelerated climate action and avoiding deceptions that could hinder progress towards cleaner energy sources.

With the new greenwashing law approved by the European Parliament, it remains to be seen who will prevail.

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