BP's Green Image Questioned in Ammonia Dumping

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BP's Green Image Questioned in Ammonia Dumping

CHICAGO -- BP's applying for -- and receiving -- a permit from the state of Indiana to dump more toxic discharges from its Whiting, Ind., refinery into Lake Michigan has drawn the attention of Chicago officials and brand strategists, AdAge reported.

"We'd like to have them live up to their advertising," Sudhu Johnston, chief environmental officer for the city of Chicago, told AdAge about the company, whose "Beyond Petroleum" corporate branding positions it as an environmentally conscious brand.

The move, which allows the oil giant to dump 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more suspended solids into the lake, enraged officials in the Windy City and raised the specter of consumer boycotts of BP, which has its U.S. headquarters in Chicago.

"If you give [consumers] physical proof the opposite is true, you're sunk," said Randy Herbertson, founder of branding-strategy firm Seesaw, New York, to AdAge about company imaging.

Research shows that consumers assume advertising is hype, Herbertson said, and they assume oil companies are big and greedy. Even so, BP's green positioning has resonated with U.K. consumers who ranked BP ninth among their Top 20 "green" brands in an online survey.

BP started advertising in regional newspapers several weeks ago to clear up misconceptions about the issue, a company spokesman said.