Monbiot: Shell’s goodwill and greenwash

An interesting column in the Guardian as George Monbiot continues his crusade against companies seeking to greenwash their image. Read the column in full here.

An excerpt:

Reading Shell’s reports and publicity material, I kept stumbling on an absence. In 2000, the company boasted that it would be investing $1 billion dollars in renewable energy between 2001 and 2005. But since then it appears to have produced no figures for its renewables budget. The company now claims that “we’re investing significantly in wind energy”(9), but it doesn’t say what significantly means. Of the ten wind farms listed on its website, only one appears to be in the planning or development stage: the others are already in operation(10). Where is the evidence of new money? When Shell pulled out of Britain’s biggest windfarm, the London Array, last year, did this represent the end of its major investments?

I asked Mr van der Veer a simple question – fifteen times. (Only a few of these attempts feature in the edited film). “What is the value of your annual investments in renewable energy?”. He waffled, changed the subject, admitted that he knew the figure, then flatly refused to reveal it. Nor could he give me a convincing explanation of why he wouldn’t tell me, claiming only that “those figures are misused and people say it is too small” and it “is not the right message to give to the people”. It strikes me that there is only one likely reason for these evasions: that Shell’s spending on renewables has fallen sharply from the figure it announced in 2000. It’s a fair guess that the current investment would look microscopic by comparison to its spending on the Canadian tar sands, and would make a mockery of its new round of advertising. I challenge Shell – for the 16th time – to prove me wrong.