Pathways Alliance CEO Kendall Dilling is interviewed at the World Petroleum Congress in Calgary, Monday, Sept. 18, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The Pathways Alliance group of oilsands companies has removed all content from its website and social media feeds, citing uncertainty over a new anti-greenwashing rule poised to become federal law, while a major oil and gas industry group has also modified its website.

The Pathways Alliance is a consortium of Canada’s six largest oilsands companies, which together have publicly committed to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from oilsands production by 2050.

The consortium has previously spent millions of dollars on a countrywide public relations blitz aimed at demonstrating that the oilsands is committed to helping fight climate change.

But as of Thursday, all that remains on the group’s website is a notice saying Pathways has removed its content due to concerns around an anti-greenwashing provision in federal Bill C-59.

“Imminent amendments to the Competition Act will create significant uncertainty for Canadian companies that want to communicate publicly about the work they are doing to improve their environmental performance,” the Pathways statement reads.

The chief executives of the six member companies said in a statement released later Thursday that the bill significantly compromises their ability to remain transparent about environmental efforts.

“Creating a public disclosure standard that is so vague as to lack meaning and that relies on undefined ‘internationally recognized methodology’ opens the door for frivolous litigation,” said the heads of Canadian Natural Resources, Imperial Oil Ltd., MEG Energy, Cenovus Energy, ConocoPhillips Canada, Suncor Energy and the Pathways Alliance.

“This represents a serious threat to freedom of communication.”

  • 0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
    0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
  • 0078 LHOS 2024
    0078 LHOS 2024
  • 0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
    0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

The executives said they are steadfast in their commitment to environmental performance, and the removal of information from the Pathways website and other platforms is not related to their belief in the accuracy of their environmental communications.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers also said Thursday it has “chosen to reduce the amount of information available on its website and other digital platforms.”

The omnibus Bill C-59, which passed third reading in the Senate Wednesday and will soon become law, contains a truth-in-advertising amendment that would require corporations to provide evidence to support their environmental claims.

The bill’s wording says businesses must not make claims to the public about what they are doing to protect the environment or mitigate the effects of climate change unless those claims are based on “adequate and proper substantiation in accordance with internationally recognized methodology.”

The provision is not fossil fuel-specific, but applies to all businesses and economic sectors.

“One of the things that’s really important is that in our democracy, people build their positions and their decisions around facts,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Sackville, N.S., on Thursday, after being asked about Pathways‘ decision to remove content from its website.

“Freedom of expression, freedom of people to share their points of view, is extraordinarily important … (but) it’s really important that organizations that put facts out there take every care to be truthful and be grounded in reality.”

  • 0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
    0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
  • 0078 LHOS 2024
    0078 LHOS 2024
  • 0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
    0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

The passage of the provision is a win for Canadian environmental groups, who have been mounting a full-fledged campaign against “greenwashing” — a term given to the perceived tendency by companies to market their products and practices as more sustainable than they really are.

In the last year, Canadian green groups have lodged at least four formal complaints with the federal Competition Bureau alleging greenwashing or false environmental claims by fossil fuel companies or banks.

The Pathways Alliance was the target of one of those complaints. Environmental groups have said the consortium’s ads and public claims about net-zero are misleading, as the Pathways Alliance has not yet made a final investment decision on its proposed $16.5-billion carbon capture and storage network.

Leah Temper, program director with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said Thursday she was “thrilled and surprised” to see the oilsands industry react so strongly to the passage of C-59.

“This is basically a very modest provision in the Competition Act. It simply requires companies to tell the truth and to have an evidence base to back up their claims,” Temper said.

“So I do think this reaction is very telling.”

  • 0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
    0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
  • 0078 LHOS 2024
    0078 LHOS 2024
  • 0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
    0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

In a statement, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said the anti-greenwashing provision will have the effect of silencing the energy industry and curtailing the ability of Canadians to participate in debates around climate and environmental policy.

“The burden of proof provision included in the amendments means those making the complaint face no risk or accountability. Rather, the burden falls entirely on companies,” said CAPP president and CEO Lisa Baiton.

“Businesses across Canada are being put at significant risk for communicating their efforts to reduce their impact on the environment.”

But Temper said that as climate change concerns mount, it has become increasingly common for businesses in all industries to make questionable environmental claims in their advertising.

“It has been the Wild West. Companies have been able to make almost any claim they want, using terms such as net-carbon neutral, without any reliable evidence base,” Temper said.

“Hopefully this (C-59) will represent a sea change.”

Alberta Environment Minister Rebecca Shulz said while companies in her province are still trying to figure out what the amendments will mean for them, investors and shareholders are likely concerned.

  • 0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
    0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
  • 0078 LHOS 2024
    0078 LHOS 2024
  • 0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
    0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

“This is an attack on freedom of speech. I wholeheartedly believe it’s wildly unconstitutional,” she said in an interview Thursday in Washington, D.C., where she was promoting Alberta’s emissions reduction efforts.

On Thursday, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce said the new rules run at “cross-purposes” to the climate ambitions of industries across all sectors.

The Chamber said the rules will also limit disclosure of climate targets and ambitions to investors and financial markets, putting Canadian companies at a distinct disadvantage relative to companies operating in other jurisdictions.

“Changes to Canada’s Competition Act will be far-reaching and risk the environmental progress industries writ-large have been working toward,” said Chamber president Deborah Yedlin.

The debate over environmental claims in advertising has been heating up worldwide. Earlier this month, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres urged countries to ban advertising by fossil fuel companies in the face of the climate crisis.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2024.

— With files from Keith Doucette in Westville, N.S. and Kelly Malone in Washington

The Canadian Press

  • 0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
    0079 Ministry of Energy Business_incentive PO
  • 0078 LHOS 2024
    0078 LHOS 2024
  • 0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
    0077 Caprice Resources Stand Up For Free Speech
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda
  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

Oilpatch to Ottawa: To hell with your gag law