Rated for year 2020: Vegan non compliant

Score: -1

Industry: Oil & Gas


Total’s core business is oil & gas exploration and production. From 2017 till  2019 Total’s score was “-2” (non vegan) because its responsibility was engaged due to past and potential future oil spills and because the company refused to change its business model for more renewable energies and more climate mitigation.

In January 2020, NGOs and local authorities launched a class action lawsuit against Total, to force the company to change its business model.

The 2019 annual report published in April 2020 has a mixed record on environmental issues and indirectly on animals.

  1. In the 2019 annual report, Total has clearly integrated climate into its strategy, which is a good point. The company’s target is “carbon neutrality in the second part of the 21st century”.
  2. The 2019 annual report complies with the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) . This is positive because goal N°14 “Life below water” and goal N°15 “Life on land” deal with animal rights and biodiversity. In details concerning biodiversity, Total has committed to: #1 “not conducting oil and gas exploration or production in the area of natural sites listed on the UNESCO Word Heritage list”. Our comment: this is a too easy goal to achieve, because this sites are protected by a major international organization, and the reputation risk would be too critical to exploit such areas. #2 “not conducting exploration in oil fields under sea ice in the Arctic”. Our comment: this commitment let the possibility to exploit oil fields in the Arctic when the ice will have melt. #3 “systematically develop biodiversity action plans for production sites located in protected areas i.e. in an IUCN I to IV or Ramsar convention protected area”. Our comment: Total 2018 biodiversity report indeed lists some actions as avoiding sensitive areas of National Parks in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and reducing impacts in southern Yemen by transplanting certain coral colonies. Nonetheless, we strongly regret that these biodiversity action plans do not apply to ALL areas but only to protected areas.
  3. The 2019 report clearly shows that the GHG emissions have no decreased since 2017: passing from 41Mt CO2e in 2017 to 41,5 Mt CO2e in 2019.
  4. Investment in renewable energies is not clearly disclosed in the 2019 annual report. The renewable energies are one component of the “Gas, renewables and power” division. Thus, all the related data to renewable energies are merged with gas which is not a renewable energy. Among the declared as major planned investment in renewable energies we notice “a giant 800 MW solar power plant in Quatar” and the “wish to invest $100 million per year” in nature-based carbon sinks as of 2020. Our comment: in comparison to a total of $17,449 million net investments in 2019,$100 million only represent 0.57% of net investment in renewable energies. Thus, we estimate that Total’s investment in renewable energies represent no more than 1%. By investing 1% in renewable energies each year, Total will not have changed its core business model based on non-renewable energies by 2050: the ratio would be 30% for renewable energies and still 70% for non-renewable energies.
  5. In 2019 the group has generated 288kt of hazardous waste, which is 1.54x times more than in 2016 when hazardous waste was 187kt (p. 156 of 2016 registration document).
  6. In 2019, Total still exploit shale gas and sand oils that are particularly harmful for the environment and thus for animals. In 2019, shale gas is still exploited in the United States in the Barnett shale area, and in Argentina. Bituminous oil sands are exploited in Canada.

According to VF methodology, Total’s core business causes massive and repeated harm to animals. Some biodiversity actions have been done, and biodiversity as as well as climate action are in the company’s strategy now. Although the outcomes and the ambitions are not outstanding, a real effort in terms of target and reporting have been done using the GRI framework and including the UN SDGs. Thus this can be considered as a first step for real change and construction of a new business model with the NGOs particularly if we focus on the goals N°13 climate action, N°14 life below water and N°15 life on land. For these reasons, we upgrade the score from “-2” to “-1” i.e. “vegan non-compliant”.

BENEFICIAL ASPECTS: some biodiversity actions, carbon neutrality target, SDGs integration

HARMFUL ASPECTS: shale gas, oil sands, increasing hazardous waste


January 2020 class action against Total for a green business model

Annual reports

2019 annual report

2018 biodiversity report

Bloomberg article – Total targets carbon neutrality in 2050

TOTAL 2016 registration document