The underhand greenwashing trick in EDF’s latest advert

Posted in: Energy

Posted on: 05.07.2019

I always watch competitors’ advertising to see what is out there and what they are doing well, or not so well. Paying particular attention to what their sustainability claims are. I remember the SSE orangutans. I’m still not sure what that one was about — are they saving the Indonesian rainforests or rehousing orangutans on Brighton Pier?

Most recently I have noticed the EDF advert ‘Generation Electric’. This is a move on from the little poo mascot they used to have which, I understand, had a lot of fans. Generation Electric is apparently the brainchild of M&C Saatchi Accelerator, with M&C Saatchi Performance, Bountiful Cow, Brilliant Noise, Good Relations and Sense and Design Motive (wow that’s a lot of agencies). It features a future generation taking to our roads with electric vehicles, bikes and scooters.

So far so good. But what confused me is that over the narrative of EDF being the largest low carbon generator in the UK, there are images of wind turbines and solar panels.

We took a closer look. If you slow the footage right down, you can see a snapshot of a nuclear power station. Barely visible with the naked eye.

What is going on here? EDF is one of the largest investors in and owners of nuclear power stations in the UK and in Europe – Hinkley Point C’s construction costs alone are around £20 Billion. It does have some wind power, 906MW in capacity, compared to its tenfold 9008MW of nuclear. It does not operate any solar farms. Its standard tariffs are 1.35% renewable. The grid average is 33.1%.

It also owns two coal power stations and a gas power station. Which do not feature on the ad.

Put yourself in the shoes of an EDF customer. They are worried about the issues that Greta Thunberg has put on the table, deciding they want a cleaner future for their family. Start to look for a renewable alternative. But then they see the ad. Lo and behold they are already with the largest low carbon generator. And EDF must have lots of wind and solar generation, because it’s in the video.

This type of greenwashing should surely be the remit of the ASA. It is a wily, subtle use of imagery and messaging. To prompt proper interrogation from a customer would require them to know what they are looking for, and where the data is. Which is why it is effective, and why it can be hard to stop. My view is that we should expect companies like EDF, that are trusted by customers to deliver their power and by our government to deliver the next generation of nuclear power stations, not to pull this type of underhand trick.

EDF we expect more.

Image: Sizewell B

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