Toronto – A coalition of the six largest oil sands producers has been running a misleading advertisement campaign to influence federal regulations and manipulate public support for oil sands development, Greenpeace Canada alleges in a new complaint to the Competition Bureau. The Pathways Alliance (Pathways) formed in 2021 and includes Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Cenovus Energy, ConocoPhillips Canada, Imperial, MEG Energy, and Suncor Energy. The complaint asks the Competition Bureau to investigate the claims made by the coalition’s “Let’s clear the air” campaign. 

“If the Pathways Alliance wants to ‘clear the air,’ let’s start by clarifying what their ad campaign really is: greenwashing,” said Priyanka Vittal, legal counsel for Greenpeace Canada. “The Pathways Alliance’s members continue to expand fossil fuel production, their net-zero plan doesn’t even consider all emissions — and it still doesn’t add up to zero.” 

Pathways’ members operate about 95 per cent of Canada’s oil sands. Last year, they broke their record for oil production, set in 2021, and are projected to surpass it again this year. The emissions generated from the use (burning) of the fossil fuel products Pathways sells — which comprise more than 80% of their members’ emissions — are not accounted for in their “net-zero” plan. Even without accounting for those emissions, their plan fails to add up to zero.

“If you put your hand up and claim you’re a climate leader, there is a price of admission — you need to do the work,” said Catherine McKenna, chair of the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Expert Group on Net-Zero Commitments of Non-State Entities and principal of climate and nature solutions. [1] “The Pathways Alliance of major oilsands companies fill the airwaves with net zero claims but instead their emissions are going up, they’re investing a fraction of their profits in clean solutions and are lobbying against climate action. Time to draw a red line around greenwashing.”

The Pathways Alliance’s “Let’s clear the air” ad campaign, however, paints the coalition as a climate leader. The ads depict movement towards net zero and steps taken to address climate change. Pathways invested  $325,025 from October 2022 to January 2023 in ads on Meta, and landed advertisements during international high-profile events.  

“They’ve run television ads during the FIFA World Cup, the Australian Open and the 2023 Super Bowl, and they have been one of the biggest advertisers on Facebook and Instagram,” Vittal said. “The Pathways Alliance’s ‘Let’s clear the air’ campaign is not a small advertising endeavour. It is widespread and strategically aimed to reach large audiences.”

If found to have made false and misleading claims in their advertising campaign by the Competition Bureau, the complaint proposes key minimum penalties for the Pathways Alliance, including removing all claims of “net zero” or related statements, issuing a public retraction of these misrepresentations, and paying a fine that is the greater of either: $10 million or 3 per cent of worldwide gross revenues. 

Greenpeace Canada requests the fine be credited to the Environmental Damages Fund and to be paid to organizations, preferably Indigenous-led, for rehabilitation/clean up of oil sands pollution.

“Any remedy must match the scale of their greenwashing,” Vittal said.


Notes to media

[1] Catherine McKenna previously served as Minister of Environment and Climate Change, as well as Minister of Infrastructure and Communities of Canada. 

[2] The media backgrounder is available here

[3] The full complaint is available here.

For more information, please contact:

Adeoluwa Atayero, Communications officer, Greenpeace Canada

[email protected]; +1 (306) 501-1314