British Cycling is facing a backlash from environmental groups and its members after announcing a major new partnership with oil giant Shell, claiming it would “help our organization and sport take important steps towards net zero”.
As the governing body’s numerous critics took to social media to question whether it was an April Fool’s joke, the sentiment was captured by one respondent who wrote: “Partnering with a fossil fuel company as an accelerant on your path to net zero? Is this satire?”
British Cycling’s decision to enter into a long-term partnership with Shell was also condemned as “brazen sportswashing” by Green peace.
“The idea that Shell is helping the British Biking reaching net zero is as absurd as beef producers advising lettuce farmers on how to go vegan,” said Greenpeace UK’s policy director, Dr. Doug Parr.
“Having been kicked out of museums and other cultural institutions, Big Oil sees sports as the next frontier for their brazen greenwash. But their goal hasn’t changed – to distract from the inconvenient fact that the fossil fuel industry is making our planet uninhabitable.”
A similar message was sent by Friends of the Earth, whose energy campaigner Jamie Peters questioned why the eight-year deal had even been made. “Cycling is the epitome of eco-friendly travel,” he told the Guardian. “It is deeply disappointing that UK Cycling could see fit to partner with a fossil giant. Shall continues to invest billions in oil and gas projects while using cynical PR initiatives like this partnership to try to greenwash its harmful activities.
“Tobacco companies are rightly banned from sports sponsorship because of the harmful health effects. So should oil and gas companies who are destroying the health of our planet. Shell should have been told to get on its bike.”
There were also several threats to cancel British Cycling memberships as a result of the deal on social media, with some noting that it is the second time in a month that British Cycling has made a questionable PR move, following their widely derided proposal that people should not use their bicycles at all during the Queen’s funeral, which they were later forced to reverse.
“What fresh hell is this?” wrote another respondent. “What on earth is the management team thinking?” “This is ethically abhorrent,” said another. “Whoever is behind this should be ashamed of themselves for engaging in greenwashing on this scale.”
In a statement explaining its decision, British Cycling said the partnership would see a shared commitment to support Britain’s cyclists and para-cyclists through the sharing of world-class innovation and expertise, accelerate their path to net zero and help more people to drive.
“We look forward to working with Shell UK for the rest of this decade to widen access to the sport, support our elite riders and help our organization and sport take important steps towards net zero – things we know our members incredibly passionate about ,” said British Cycling CEO Brian Facer.