From the Vault: Reason Hated BP, Back Before It Was Cool


In 2006, I wrote about BP's massive (and massively successful) greenwashing campaign. The company changes their logo to a green and yellow sunburst/flower/explosion of happiness, and BP started "thinking outside the barrel," "mobilizing Malaysians to take action on climate change," and generally pretending it wasn't still a gigantic oil company—with an already-spotty safety record. That PR push meant that when it came time for a little protesting, activists tended to choose Exxon over BP as a target every time.

But as oil continues to gush into the Gulf, all those mobilized Malaysians aren't helping BP one bit, and no one's likely to forget they're an oil company anytime soon, no matter how cute their ads were.

From the February 2006 issue:

For an example of a company apparently trying to single-handedly save the planet through expensive public relations alone, one needn't look farther than the corporate darling of serious environmentalists and greenish consumers alike: BP

BP is first among many companies that have opted to do their environmental penance in the glare of the spotlight. British Petroleum (recently rechristened BP, following KFC's model in removing unsavory words from its brand name) has been much ballyhooed for its commitment to the environment. Most of the ballyhooing is being done by BP itself.

A gas and oil company with $225 billion in revenue, BP is part of an industry that will keep environmental advocacy groups in business for as long at it exists. Yet these days BP is styling itself "Beyond Petroleum" and declaring that it's "thinking outside the barrel." BP's Environmental Team has crafted an elaborate advertising campaign and rebranding effort, recently expanded to the Web. Its goal: to convince the world that a company that sucks dead dinosaurs out of the earth, turns them into gasoline, and delivers that gas to SUVs can also be environmentally friendly enough to use a green and yellow sunburst (or is it a flower?) as its logo….

One might be forgiven for wondering how BP is managing to take in hundreds of billions in oil and gas revenue, apparently in its spare time.

The conclusion?

For the moment, the marriage of convenience between BP and environmental activists remains intact and fairly functional. But both sides recognize that they have struck a delicate balance.

Looks like Al and Tipper aren't the only green couple with a marriage on the rocks.

Read the whole thing here.