Esso is getting touchy about it's corporate image. The oil giant has recently launched a lawsuit against Greenpeace France, alleging that the stylized double dollar signs the eco group is using as part of its StopEsso campaign resemble the insignia used by Hitler's infamous SS.
While a quick look at the offending logo leaves the casual observer wondering what Esso's on about, the company is demanding Greenpeace remove the logo and the term "StopEsso" from its Web sites.
Greenpeace thinks Esso is trying to use France's strict intellectual property laws to muzzle them. Though the StopEsso campaign is an international initiative, only Greenpeace France is being sued by the French branch of Exxon.
Esso France spokesperson Marine Champon, however, denies the company is trying to silence criticism.
"They can express the opinions they want," Champon says. "We disagree with their allegations, but this is not the legal ground of our action."
Esso has been coming under a great deal of pressure lately from Greenpeace and other eco groups, which say the company, as one of U.S. president George Bush's top five contributors, has played a big part in the U.S.'s decision to walk away from the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"Esso has gone way beyond any other oil company in trying to undermine politics and international action in order to carry on with business as usual," says StopEsso global team leader Stephanie Tunmore. "We're just trying to make that public."
Esso's Champon counters that the company "is taking climate change seriously," pointing to greening efforts that have made its refineries 27 per cent more efficient in the last 25 years and its research into new energy systems and fuel cell technology.
Greenpeace isn't impressed.
"The fact that Esso has launched a suit," says Canadian StopEsso campaigner Jennifer Story, "shows how heavy-handed they are in trying to stop international action on climate change and their own critics."