After announcing a significant new collaboration with the oil company Shell, British Cycling has come under fire from environmental organizations and some of its supporters. According to the governing body, it would "allow our organization and sport to take vital steps towards net zero."
Critics questioned whether it was April Fool's Day on social media, and one commenter perfectly encapsulated the sentiment when they wrote: "Partnering a fossil fuel corporation as an accelerant to your route to net zero? Is this parody?
Filippo Ganna, an Italian cyclist, is lifted into the air after breaking Dan Bigham's hour record in Grenchen, Switzerland.
Greenpeace criticized the choice to form a long-term collaboration with Shell. According to Dr. Doug Parr, director of the strategy for Greenpeace UK, "the idea of Shell assisting British Cycling to attain net zero is as ludicrous as cattle producers instructing lettuce farmers on how to go vegan."
"Big Oil is attempting to utilize sports as the new front in its atrocious greenwashing campaign after being banned from cultural institutions like museums. The unfortunate fact that the fossil fuel industry is rendering our world uninhabitable is still their main objective, though.
Friends of the Earth, whose energy campaigner Jamie Peters questioned why the eight-year agreement had even been reached, issued a similar message.
Cycling is the pinnacle of sustainable transportation, he declared. It is quite unfortunate that British Cycling could consider a partnership with a major fossil fuel company to be legitimate.
Shell is continuing to invest billions in oil and gas projects while attempting to whitewash its damaging operations through unscrupulous PR campaigns like this cooperation.
"Given the negative effects on health, tobacco firms are legitimately forbidden from sponsoring sports. Oil and gas firms, which are destroying the health of our world, should be subject to the same rules. Shell ought to have been instructed to mount its bicycle.
On social media, there were many threats to revoke British Cycling memberships as a result of the agreement. Some people noted that this was the second time in a month that British Cycling had made a dubious PR decision, following their widely mocked recommendation that people refrain from riding their bicycles during the Queen's funeral, which they were later forced to retract.
“What the hell is this,” a different respondent asked. “What on Earth are the leadership team's members thinking? It's morally repugnant, another person said. Whoever is behind this should feel guilty for participating in such a massive case of greenwashing.”
According to British Cycling, the collaboration will boost the nation's cyclists and para-cyclists by transferring cutting-edge knowledge and innovation while encouraging more people to ride.
British Cycling's CEO, Brian Facer, stated, "We're looking forward to working with Shell UK over the course of this decade to widen access to the sport, support our elite riders, and help our organization and sport take significant steps toward net zero - things we know our members are extremely passionate about.”
In recent years, the majority of public-facing organizations have avoided sponsorship agreements with significant fossil fuel oligopolies.
According to Parr, "Big Oil is looking at sports as the next frontier for their arrogant greenwash after being kicked out of museums and other cultural institutions."
However, their goal has remained the same: to divert attention from the uncomfortable fact that the fossil fuel industry is becoming our planet uninhabitable.
Chris Packham, a conservationist, described it as a "disaster." He said on social media that he was "so out of touch it defies belief. This is a catastrophe for a sport that is so popular with people who pedal to improve their health and the environment. Whatever you 'gain,' you have no longer any credibility, and you won't feel bad about it for eight years."
Since HSBC's support for British Cycling terminated at the end of 2021, the organization has been searching for a new main sponsor. In an agreement that will last until the end of 2030, Shell, which has annual revenues of over $250 billion and has so far this year reported record profits, was introduced as the federation's new "Official Partner" on Monday.
Shell will sponsor a new program to make cycling more accessible to individuals with disabilities in addition to allegedly "accelerating British Cycling to net zero," and the investment will assist pay for the elite sporting programs during the following two Olympic cycles.
Users on social media reacted negatively to the news with a tidal wave of criticism. Following the announcement, several claimed to have canceled or threatened to terminate their memberships. I recognize that sports require funding, but there must be certain standards. I'm terminating my membership," one Twitter user commented.