BP’s lack of evidence leaves hole in sustainability claim

Scepticism around ‘greenwashing’ preys on the minds of many executives as the topic rises up the agenda. A prime example is the Financial Time’s coverage of BP chairman Helge Lund’s attempt to set out the oil and gas giant’s sustainability credentials.

Lund’s op-ed article in the FT on May 21 said his ambition is to transform BP away from carbon-based fuels. But in its own report on Lund’s article, the FT was at pains to highlight the lack of evidence and specifics backing up BP’s claims.

The FT’s reporter noted that Lund ‘did not detail how he would do so, and continued to reject investor calls to set hard emissions targets for the use of fuels it produces’. The FT also observed how, Lund had neither, ‘spelled out how BP was shifting its business strategy or changing its spending plans’.

The paper’s editors are almost certain to have requested evidence from the BP before publishing. If so, this should have been a warning light for BP either to provide concrete examples or pause the article until they could do so. Newsrooms always demand data and crave real-life examples. 

Businesses, including many of our clients, are desperate to set out their environment, social and governance (ESG) credentials to investors, customers, employees and the media. But none of these audiences will be convinced any longer by sweeping statements or grand visions – without something tangible to back it up.

Our advice to clients is that they cannot be credible in the media without examples of initiatives completed or planned, data to showcase any improvements and, wherever possible, budgets committed.

If the evidence isn’t ready, don’t pontificate.