Chevron Agrees

Chevron has just announced a new ad campaign to highlight the various ways in which the company and its critics actually agree on a number of ethically-important points. Things like:

  • “Oil companies should put their profits to good use.”
  • “It’s time oil companies get behind the development of renewable energy.”
  • “Oil companies should support the communities they’re a part of.”
  • etc.

Here’s the press release announcing the new campaign: Chevron Launches New Global Advertising Campaign: ‘We Agree’. There’s also a YouTube channel where you can see the TV ads.

Many people will detect a whiff of greenwashing, here. And you don’t have to be much of a cynic to be somewhat skeptical. Back in 2001, another oil company, British Petroleum, claimed to be turning over a new leaf when it branded itself as just BP, which it suggested stood for “Beyond Petroleum.” We all know how that turned out.

The We Agree website of course features all kinds of nifty-sounding illustrations of Chevron’s commitment to being socially responsible. It’s mostly the usual kinds of stuff. But what’s interesting here, philosophically, is the attempt to point to the underlying agreement on values. And (this campaign aside) I do think it’s important for people on different sides of any given debate to understand just how much they probably do agree on, at the level of basic values. Now, if we could just agree on how those shared values ought to be implemented, we would really be getting somewhere.

(Note: as I blogged last night, this Chevron campaign got spoofed by pranksters who issued their own version of the Chevron press-release, pointing to a very-convincing-but-fake campaign website. I was temporarily fooled, myself. You can find out about the spoof via the NYT‘s Media Decoder blog: Pranksters Lampoon Chevron Ad Campaign.)

11 comments so far

  1. […] his interesting Business Ethics Blog, Chris MacDonald (Saint Mary’s University, Canada) today published a posting on […]

  2. frankdebakker on

    This is a fascinating campaign, both from Chevron’s end as you observed and from the end of the activist groups. The ethical questions one can pose on Chevron might also apply to the activist groups. I have been working on activist group tactics for some while and also considered their ideological positions but I have not come across much research on the ethical implications of specific tactics. Of course, radical groups have other value sets than
    reformists but I was wondering whether you are awre of any such work?

  3. frankdebakker on


    I agree – the Atack article provided some insights that are applicable to a wider set of activist groups. I’ll re-read that one. Their legitimacy often is one of the essential resources of activist groups.


  4. Jilly on

    I am an editor, and have also worked on questionnaire design. To say that these statements are ambiguous is to put it mildly. What is “good use”? What are “communities”? And what would be the implications of having transnational corporations control renewable energy?

    I hope the campaign result in a backlash that will make them stop this kind of, to say the least, disingenuous communication.

  5. Chris MacDonald on


    Actually, they’re more vague than ambiguous.

    But anyway, in fairness, if you go to the website, there’s a lot more there than those simple statements. I’m as skeptical about this sort of campaign as the next guy, but the thing to judge them on is what they’re actually doing.


  6. Barbara Kimmel on

    Hi Chris-we have just completed our 2010 review of trustworthy business behavior among 1913 public companies in 16 industry sectors, one of them being energy. Our model considers 5 drivers of trust-financial stability and strength, accounting conservativeness, corporate governance, transparency and sustainability.

    While the energy sector on average (113 companies)is certainly not the poster child for trustworthy business behavior, there are some shining stars. In fact, the most trustworthy company in our entire 1913 universe happens to be in the energy sector, and Chevron is among the top 15% in its sector.

    Maybe it’s time to stop pointing greenwashing fingers at an entire industry and take a closer look at some of the companies who seem to be embracing the concept of a more ethical and trustworthy corporate culture. Let’s get the focus back on the companies that are “doing it right”!

  7. Jilly on


    I have visited the web site and find nothing on it that compels or even encourages me to be more trusting of Chevron.

    In re your statement: “the thing to judge them on is what they’re actually doing.”

    In my view, we don’t know what they are doing; the only thing we know is that small they are willing to acknowledge that they are doing. We are unlikely to find out what they are doing for years, if ever, although we are likely to see its effects. So, what we need to use in our judgments is what they have done in the past, which is what corporations were designed to do: put profit above all other considerations.

    I think it is fair to say that Chevron will not do anything socially responsible that it is not compelled to do either by law, or by the requirements imposed on it by its potential customers. What I would wish for in an advertising campaign is a little more honesty, and a great deal more clarity.


  8. […] spin or contention—are ethical and laudable. Of course, they are just words so far: as Chris McDonald points out, the last oil company to trumpet its social consciousness and environmental commitment was BP. […]

  9. Dan Wheeler on

    Very interesting. Do we have any sense of what Chevron is doing differently in these areas than the competition? As a consumer I am more affected by the actual corporate culture (ex. Zappos) over the way a company is branding themselves.

  10. Greice, Natália and Sangalli on

    Virtual Campains are a good way to envolve a lot of people in a little bit of time and motivate them to fight for the same cause!

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