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Why Pathways Alliance just scrubbed its website and social feeds

The coalition of oil and gas companies is reacting to new federal greenwashing rules, which come as the Competition Bureau investigates allegations of false or misleading claims

Up until last week, there was a Canadian website featuring the aspirational plans of six large oil and gas companies to reach net-zero emissions. But if you go to that page today, you’ll only find a three-paragraph letter, in both French and English, that has taken over all its digital real estate.

The website in question? It belongs to Pathways Alliance, a coalition of those companies and the advertiser behind commercials about how oilsands operations can supposedly meet ambitious environmental targets.

In a surprising development, the group scraped everything from its website and social media accounts on Thursday in response to Bill C-59, a new federal law that further restricts misleading advertising, which could lead to new penalties.

The Narwhal’s climate investigations reporter, Carl Meyer, has been doggedly reporting on Pathways Alliance — including complaints of greenwashing, the practice of companies making their products or operations appear more environmentally friendly than they really are.

One group of researchers determined Pathways Alliance was complicit in greenwashing, and a complaint submitted to the Competition Bureau of Canada cited Carl’s coverage. The bureau is now investigating those allegations. 

Take for example, a 2023 Pathways ad — deleted from YouTube but available to view on the Internet Archive — that aired on the Canadian broadcast of the Super Bowl, which said the six oil and gas companies had “joined forces on carbon capture technology that will reduce emissions by millions of tonnes annually.”

But Pathways Alliance has yet to proceed with its carbon capture and storage project as it seeks billions in public subsidies. The group also asked the federal government to fast-track the project without an environmental assessment, Carl recently reported in an investigation that made waves on Parliament Hill.

Investigating problems. Exploring solutions
The Narwhal’s reporters are telling environment stories you won’t read about anywhere else. Stay in the loop by signing up for a weekly dose of independent journalism.
Investigating problems. Exploring solutions
The Narwhal’s reporters are telling environment stories you won’t read about anywhere else. Stay in the loop by signing up for a weekly dose of independent journalism.

While we don’t know all the ins and outs of how this greenwashing law will take effect, we can tell you that these oilsands companies, for now, are no longer claiming they have a path to net zero.

For its part, Pathways said the removal of content “is a direct consequence of the new legislation and is not related to the truth and accuracy of our environmental communications.”

To be clear, I’m not endorsing the federal government’s new law and I think there are legitimate concerns about whether it goes too far in restricting free speech for businesses that want to talk about their environmental initiatives.

But we think Carl’s reporting played a significant role in clearing up some of the hot air — and apparently so does the Canadian Association of Journalists, which gave him an award for the best online journalism of 2023.

Check out Carl’s coverage on the Pathways Alliance over here.

Updated, June 21, 2024 at 7:30 a.m. ET: This article was updated to add context about concerns raised regarding Bill C-59. Its label has also been changed to “Opinion” from “Analysis.”

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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