Shell has a new, somewhat perplexing, greenwashing campaign. Both television and print advertisements in this new campaign now star Japanese children and families. The print ad, which we know has shown up in both newspapers and magazines, includes several Japanese children playing with balloons in what looks like a traditional Japanese home. The text of the ad includes the phrases “Let’s pass energy on to the next generation” and “The Yoshida children have a lot of energy. But the country they’re growing up in doesn’t."
The television ad that accompanies the print one features a young Japanese boy playing his electric guitar loud and his father coming upstairs to unplug the guitar from the wall.
The message of the ad is that Shell is supplying the energy needed for the child to play his guitar, when is father allows.
Both of these ad’s feature the slogan “Lets go,” which is tied to their greenwashing message of promoting a “better energy future.”
Both of these ads are not only examples of greenwash, because of the fact that an oil company like Shell is behind the message, but they are also simply strange in their target audience choice and featured characters. Why Japan?
Perhaps it’s the long history Shell has in the country. Marcus Samuel and the Samuel Company, a part of the group that eventually formed Royal Dutch Shell, has been operating in Japan since 1900. Since then, the company has formed several oil businesses in the country, including Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K., Shell Gas & Power Japan Ltd., Shell Chemicals Japan Ltd., and Shell Global Solutions Japan Ltd.
Japan is a key market for Shell. The country is the world’s largest market for Liquefied Natural Gas or LNG, which shell involves itself in heavily. Additionally, the company works in coal gasification projects in Japan, pulling synthetic gas from petroleum coke, a solid generated from the oil refinery process.
Shell has been significantly benefiting from Japan’s resources for over a century. So why not use the children of the country as the stars in ads that get distributed across the world? I suppose that’s not a crime. But still, the message that Shell cares about the energy future for these children is somewhat skewed, considering their everyday practices in the country and across the world. Shell is an oil company and gets the majority of its money from drilling and exploring for oil. And as long as they are continuing to support those activities, the company won’t be promoting a safe, clean energy future for children in any part of the world.>
Used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.