Ampol has been accused of "greenwashing"after it offered new "carbon-neutral" petrol and diesel products to business clients on Facebook.
The Australian petroleum company, headquartered in Sydney, called the offering “an important step” in its decarbonisation strategy.
"Ampol Carbon Neutral will be available to all of our business customers looking to offset the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the sourcing, refining, distribution, retailing and consumption of our petrol and diesel products," the July 13 advertisement reads.
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The complaint to Ad Standards, which oversees a national system of advertising self-regulation, alleged a breach of the agency’s Environmental Claims Code.
The complaint against Ampol was filed by Comms Declare - a volunteer group that advocates against fossil-fuel-industry advertising - and representation was provided by the Environmental Defenders Office legal service.
"Given recent concern about greenhouse gas emissions, these statements form a strong overall impression that fuel can be carbon neutral," the complaint reads.
"This may encourage motorists to think driving a car powered by petrol or diesel is not environmentally harmful, which is not the case."
Ampol's carbon neutral claims disputed by climate group
Ampol’s Carbon Neutral program is certified by the commonwealth-government-backed Climate Active, and offers two carbon offset credit portfolios. One comprises 30 per cent Australian projects and the other is 100 per cent local.
Comms Declare's complaint questions the strength of the carbon offsets, which they allege "cannot be proven effective in reducing all the emissions from the fuel".
It alleges a breach of Section 1 of Ad Standards' Environmental Claims Code, which covers misleading or deceptive conduct in relation to environmental claims.
In a statement, Comms Declare founder Belinda Noble compared carbon neutral fuel to the “menthol cigarettes” of the past.
"It pretends to be healthy while keeping you addicted to toxic chemicals," she said.
"The people who buy this product are being given a false sense of security that they are helping the environment.
"The offsets include overseas projects such as ‘improved kitchen regimes’ in Africa that seems impossible to independently verify as it would involve monitoring the wood use in thousands of homes."
Ampol makes emissions-reduction announcements
Over the past 24 months, Ampol has been rolling out a number of unrelated emissions-reduction products.
An electric vehicle charging site was opened in August at its Woolworths MetroGo site in Alexandria, NSW.
Last year, it also welcomed the release of the Roadmap to 2030 report from the Climate Leaders Coalition - a group of 33 Australian companies, of which Ampol is a member.
"As business leaders, we must step up and be part of the solution to climate change," Ampol managing director Matt Halliday said in 2021.
"This will ensure future generations have the opportunities we have had and more. I want to look back and be proud that I was part of a generation that transformed the world into a better place with a sustainable future, rather than one that acted too late and too slowly to make a real difference."
Ampol responds to greenwashing claims
Following publication of this article, Ampol Australia responded with a statement from a spokesperson.
"Our carbon-neutral program is one part of our future energy strategy, focused on decarbonising our own operations and developing new, lower-emissions energy solutions for our customers," the spokesperson said.
"Carbon-neutral fuel is a short-term solution for customers looking to offset emissions in areas where lower-emissions energy solutions are not yet available.
"Our carbon-neutral fuel offering has been certified by Climate Active, an Australian government-backed program.
"Ampol went through a comprehensive due-diligence process to ensure we invest in high-integrity projects that adhere to stringent standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.
"We have sourced our carbon credits through a third party where all projects are measured, reviewed, and audited throughout the project lifecycle. Current offset projects are outlined in our public disclosure statements."
Update: On September 14 Ad Standards dismissed the case.