WWF files complaint against world’s biggest coal company for misleading advertising | WWF

WWF files complaint against world’s biggest coal company for misleading advertising

Posted on 10 April 2014
Coal mining

Today, WWF filed a complaint to Belgium’s Jury d’Ethique Publicitaire (JEP) against Peabody Energy. The complaint accuses the world’s biggest private coal company of misleading readers in its advertisement “Let’s brighten the many faces of global energy poverty” [1]. Despite coal being the dirtiest fuel, the advert claims more coal is the answer to the human and environmental crisis of energy poverty.

WWF argues that Peabody’s advertisement, published in the European edition of the Financial Times as part of the company’s new public relations campaign “Advanced Energy for Life” [2] [3], breaches several articles of the JEP Code, including the Guiding Principles which require that “any publicity must be decent, honest and veracious”.

In its advertisement, Peabody Energy:

• fails to disclose that the core of its operations is coal mining and supplying coal-fired power plants;
• claims that energy poverty is “the world’s number one human and environmental crisis”;
• claims that “clean, modern energy”, meaning so-called advanced clean coal technologies, is “the solution for better, longer and healthier lives” misleading readers as to the negative climate, environmental and health impacts of coal pollution;
• uses absolute and misleading assertions such as “clean coal” that are not substantiated by relevant scientific evidence and commercial application. Clean coal has been largely discredited as a concept.

“Peabody Energy’s new campaign marks the final death throes of a dying and desperate industry. As coal loses ground in developed countries to more modern and sustainable alternatives, Peabody is marketing its dangerous technologies onto those poorest countries with the least development options”, said Tony Long, Director of WWF European Policy Office.

“In bringing this action against Peabody, WWF is taking a stand against the deep cynicism implicit in its publicity ploy. Trying to sell coal to poor people as a path to better and healthier lives is socially irresponsible and morally wrong. We already know that poor countries are most affected by climate change, and are the least equipped to fight its negative impacts.”

Available scientific evidence [4], proves that the world’s most pressing environmental and human crisis is climate change – caused by rising CO2 emissions – a major contributor to what is Peabody’s core business: coal.

Coal is also one of the dirtiest fuels and there are severe health effects resulting from burning it [5] [6]. According to a World Health Organisation report, around 7 million people died in 2012 - one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. A large part of these deaths are attributed to indoor and outdoor coal burning related pollution [7].


Note to the editors:

[1] “Let’s brighten the many faces of global energy poverty” http://s3.amazonaws.com/ownlocal.adforge.production/ads/887098/original_pdfs.pdf?1393259518

[2] “Advanced Energy for Life”, Peabody Energy’s new campaign: https://www.advancedenergyforlife.com/

[3] Burson-Marsteller, the world's largest PR firm, and its subsidiary, ‘Proof Integrated Communications’, are working behind the scenes on Peabody's PR effort.

[4] Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability: http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/IPCC_WG2AR5_SPM_Approved.pdf

[5] “Toxic Air: The Case for Cleaning Up Coal-fired Power Plants,” American Lung Association 2011, http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/healthy-air/toxic-air-report.pdf

[6] “Air Pollution Kills 7 Million People Every Year, World Health Organization Report Finds.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/25/air-pollution-deaths_n_5027320.html

[7] “Public health, social and environmental determinants of health (PHE),” World Health Organisation 2013. http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/en/


Darek Urbaniak
Energy Policy Officer
WWF European Policy Office
Phone:+32 2 761 04 21
Mobile:+32 4 95 460 258

Audrey Gueudet
Climate & Energy Media and Communication Officer
WWF European Policy Officer
Phone: +32 2 743 88 06 |
Mobile: + 32 494 03 20 27