Big Oil's Real Agenda on Climate Change 2022

An InfluenceMap Report

September 2022

See coverage in the Financial Times, The Guardian, CNN, AFP, EFE, Der Tagesspiegal, The Boston Globe,Politco, Citywire, Grist, Gizmodo, Edie, Renews.biz, Eco-Business, and Forbes India.

Following up on InfluenceMap's 2019 edition of 'Big Oil's Real Agenda', this latest report compares and contrasts the public communications, business operations, and policy engagement of 5 'supermajor' oil companies: BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergies.


Extensive analysis finds that the five supermajors are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on a systematic strategy to portray themselves as positive and proactive on the climate change emergency. This is found to be inconsistent with the companies' plans for capital investment in their business. It is also found to be misaligned from the detailed policy engagement activities of the companies and their industry associations on climate change.

Across 3,421 items of public communications materials from the five companies in 2021, 60% contained at least one green claim, while only 23% contained claims promoting oil and gas. Claims highlighting the companies' support of, or involvement with, efforts to transition the energy mix were by far the most popular type of green claim.

None of the companies assessed disclosed the strategies that inform their public messaging on climate change, nor the resources dedicated to related activities. Using cost estimates based on the number of communications and media staff the companies employ, InfluenceMap’s analysis suggests that the companies are spending around $750 million each year cumulatively on climate-related communication activities

In contrast, only 12% of the five companies' 2022 capital expenditure (CAPEX) is forecasted to be dedicated to 'low carbon' activities. Additionally, none of the supermajors' forecasted oil production appears in line with the International Energy Agency's Net Zero Emissions by 2050 (as of Q4 2021), with several companies planning to increase oil and gas production between 2021 and 2026.

At the same time, InfluenceMap found that none of the companies have aligned their climate policy engagement activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and retain a dense and global network of industry associations globally, which are highly active in their opposition to Paris Aligned climate policies

The findings raise serious and persistent questions for regulators and the companies’ shareholders, as well as PR and advertising agencies, media, and social media platforms that work with the companies. It is noted that this analysis focuses on the companies’ main corporate communications channels and thus is focused on their North American/European communications. Future research will focus on how the companies communicate in the Global South.

In addition to the report, Integrated Climate Profiles detailing each companies' public communications strategies, policy engagement, and business operations can be downloaded from this page.

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Companies lobby governments. They always have. While ensuring well-informed policies that minimise unintended harm is in the public interest, corporate lobbying that promotes narrow interests at the expense of society is not. InfluenceMap’s latest analysis of five oil and gas majors’ lobbying behaviour paints a picture of a corporate effort to block more robust climate action. This jars with these same companies’ expensive marketing campaigns that portray them as building a green future for society. If oil and gas majors are serious about delivering a sustainable planet, it is time they called for the robust policy measures they know are needed. It is also time they publicly disassociate themselves from lobbying initiatives that seek the opposite.

Natasha Landell-Mills, Head of Stewardship at Sarasin & Partners

The time to act on climate disinformation is now. InfluenceMap's report shines a light on the staggering amount of disinformation that is being spread by some of the world’s biggest polluters. This report shows the lengths oil and gas companies are willing to go to mislead citizens and protect their own interests. But protecting the environment from their harmful actions is in all of our interests. We urgently need change - more transparency, flagging and fact checking, and real consequences for repeat offenders.

Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Member of the European Parliament (Greens / EFA)

Investors can already see there is a disconnect between companies’ climate pledges and their actions, most notably their capital expenditure towards decarbonisation. This research from InfluenceMap provides further proof that companies are not putting their money where their mouth is. Investors want to see companies genuinely commit to and plan for the transition to net zero emissions – not more greenwash. It’s past time for companies' actions to match their statements.

Laura Hillis, Director of Corporate Engagement at the Investor Group on Climate Change

Existing legal, regulatory and self-regulatory advertising standards are all clear that environmental marketing claims must match the environmental evidence.

It’s no surprise then that litigation is increasing against fossil fuel companies as they continue to spin their role in the energy transition at the same time as they expand their oil and gas production.

InfluenceMap’s analysis adds to the wealth of evidence showing the glaring gap between the oil supermajors’ environmental claims and the reality of their climate-wrecking business plans.

Misleading fossil fuel messaging strategies are hampering global efforts to address the climate emergency, and increasingly they are also posing a legal risk. To confront the climate crisis, we have to stamp out greenwashing using every tool we have – through the courts, through policymakers and through regulators.

Johnny White, Lawyer at ClientEarth