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"Greenwashing, pure and simple" - fury as Shell UK sponsors British Cycling

Members express shock at announcement of partnership, with many saying they will cancel their membership

British Cycling has been accused on social media today of facilitating ‘greenwashing’ with hundreds of comments from members slamming its announcement of the UK subsidiary of multinational oil and gas giant Shell as its new sponsor through an eight-year deal that the national governing body claims will help accelerate its “path to net zero.”

It also says that the partnership, which begins this month and runs until the end of 2030 “will see a shared commitment to supporting Great Britain’s cyclists and para-cyclists through the sharing of world-class innovation and expertise,” as well as “helping more – and wider groups of – people to ride, including ways to make cycling more accessible for disabled people,” the latter through a new programme called ‘Limitless’.  

Shell UK, which operates the country’s largest public network of electric vehicle (EV) charging points, says it will also support British Cycling’s aim to move towards a fleet made up entirely of EVs.

At global level, last month the company – which changed its name from Royal Dutch Shell – said that it planned to move into e-bikes and e-scooters, explaining that “our customers want our brand to move into micromobility even if we don’t have market share yet.”

But as’s sister website eBikeTips pointed out, a recent report claimed that Shell, which insists it is committed to achieving net zero by 2050, had told employees in an internal communication from 2020 to never “imply, suggest, or leave it open for possible misinterpretation that (net zero) is a Shell goal or target.”

> Oil giant Shell to make e-bikes as well as e-scooters – or at least their name will be on them

Speaking about the new partnership, British Cycling’s CEO, Brian Facer, said:   “We’re looking forward to working alongside Shell UK over the rest of this decade to widen access to the sport, support our elite riders and help our organisation and sport take important steps towards net zero – things we know our members are incredibly passionate about.  

“Within our new commercial programme, this partnership with Shell UK brings powerful support for cycling, will help us to improve and will make more people consider cycling and cyclists.”  

David Bunch, Shell UK Country Chair, added: “We’re very proud to become an Official Partner to British Cycling. The partnership reflects the shared ambitions of Shell UK and British Cycling to get to net zero in the UK as well as encouraging low and zero-carbon forms of transport such as cycling and electric vehicles. 

“Working together we can deliver real change for people right across the country, from different walks of life, and also apply Shell’s world-leading lubricant technology to support the Great Britain Cycling Team in their quest for gold at the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games.”  

Like many other major energy companies, Shell has been diversifying its portfolio to include renewables, as well as working on improving the UK’s energy security, and it also says it is committed to helping the country achieve net zero.

But like most of its rivals, Shell plc has posted record profits since Russia invaded Ukraine in February – the figure of $11.5bn (£9.4bn) it announced for the second quarter of 2022 being more than double the $5.5bn (£4.5bn) it made in the comparable period last year.

What it terms “Renewables and energy solutions” made up just 6.3 per cent of its earnings for the quarter, with oil and gas accounting for the vast majority of its profits, resulting in the company, like its rivals, being accused of looking to cash in on the cost-of-living crisis as consumers face huge increases in their fuel bills.

Speaking in London last week at the Energy Intelligence Forum, the group’s chief executive, said that vulnerable consumers in Europe needed to be protected from rising prices, but added that in his view the answer lay in taxing energy companies’ profits rather than capping prices.

Referring to the current volatility in oil and gas prices, he said: “You cannot have a market  that behaves in such a way ... that is going to damage a significant part of society.

“One way or another there needs to be government intervention that somehow results in protecting the poorest.”

He added: “That probably may then mean that governments need to tax people in this room to pay for it.”

Following the announcement of the partnership at lunchtime today, a number of Twitter users expressed shock at the news, including the reference to net zero, such as this tweet.

Some said that it would result in them cancelling their membership of British Cycling, with others adding that it vindicated them already having done that.

One British Cycling member, a trained ride leader for the organisation’s Breeze women-only rides, said that the energy company “stand for everything we everyday cyclists don’t,” while another who has belonged to the organisation for more than a quarter of a century said that the sponsorship was “green washing for them [Shell UK], plain and simple.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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