A major UK consumer loyalty programme has been criticised by environmental campaigners for making Esso – whose parent company ExxonMobil has been under fire for its track record on climate change – its new fuel partner.
Petrol company BP has axed its 16-year partnership with the Nectar loyalty card, which means that from Saturday the 20 million holders of the card – owned by Sainsbury’s – will no longer be able to earn points with BP and will instead pick up Nectar points at Esso-branded sites when filling up their tank.
In the biggest single shake-up yet of petrol station loyalty schemes that reflects the turmoil and environmental pressures on the sector, Esso has terminated its partnership with Tesco Clubcard to set up the Esso Nectar scheme.
Environmental campaigners have warned that loyalty cards stimulate consumption of damaging fossil fuels, despite a looming government ban on new petrol and diesel car sales from 2040 and a push to encourage take-up of low-emission electric vehicles.
“We have a climate emergency on our hands,” said Rachel Kennerley, a Friends of the Earth climate campaigner. “It’s a completely out-of-touch and backwards step for Nectar to be partnering with some of the world’s biggest polluters.”
Paul Morozzo, a climate campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “Promoting fossil fuels is always deeply irresponsible. If someone poured bleach on your cornflakes, would you care whether it’s Cif or Domestos?”
The world’s biggest international oil company, ExxonMobil is best known in the UK for its Esso and Mobil brands. It is one of the UK’s largest petrol retailers, serving about 800,000 customers every day through a network of 1,100 Esso-branded filling stations.
David Chilton, the global loyalty programmes manager at ExxonMobil, said: “Our customers are our number one priority, so we’re very excited to be launching the Esso Nectar partnership.”
However, in the US the company has been investigated over allegations that it knew about the dangers of global heating for decades but deceived the public over the risks. The firm has rejected the charge. Its alleged role in spreading misinformation about the climate crisis is being investigated by the European Union.
James Moir, the managing director of Nectar Loyalty, said: “We’re always looking for new ways to reward our customers and are thrilled to be offering them the chance to turn their fuel into money off their weekly shop, as well as hundreds of other personalised rewards.”
In a raft of other changes in the sector, BP will shortly launch a new loyalty programme for its UK retail business, a network of more than 300 filling stations in the UK and 900 more BP-branded forecourts owned and run by independent dealers.
The Shell Drivers’ Club offered cash discounts on fuel or Avios points or Waitrose vouchers. But as of this month, it has launched a new customer loyalty card, Shell Go+, which no longer allows its members to direct their points value towards carbon offset schemes. The two major surviving schemes are Morrisons More and Texaco.
“There is a huge shift under way in petrol station loyalty and by the summer the whole landscape will have been changed,” said Anika Newjoto, editor of supermarket rewards website Shopper Points. “This seems to be happening because, frankly, the schemes were not working. Petrol is a very low profit margin business and it seems that the cost of the loyalty points was not proving worthwhile.”