Outcry as British Cycling partners with Shell
Green groups and prominent figures in the UK’s cycling community have expressed anger after British Cycling, which administers most competitive events nationally, signed a new partnership with Shell.
The organisation confirmed the partnership on Monday (10 October) with a press release and posts on its social media channels. The partnership will see Shell replacing HSBC as British Cycling’s ‘official partner’ after an eight-year stint. British Cycling has said the new partnership will run through to 2030.
Under the agreement, Shell will fund British Cycling programmes aiming to improve disability access in cycling. It will also contribute to the organisation’s work to develop a net-zero roadmap for the sport. Additionally, the Great Britain cycling team at the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics will use Shell’s lubricants.
British Cycling’s chief executive Brian Facer said the partnership “brings powerful support for cycling” and that cyclists “care passionately” about disability access and decarbonisation.
A quick glance through the Twitter replies to the announcement proves that many believe the partnership was unwise.
Helen Ward, Professor of Public Health at London’s Imperial College, stated that she has resigned from British Cycling with immediate effect. She Tweeted: “I see it as a group campaigning for sustainable transport, and that does not fit well with oil money”.
350.org founder Bill McKibben Tweeted at British Cycling, writing: “It seems like it might be worth going out for a pedal and thinking this through again. Sometimes exercise can help clear the mind!”
Former Surfers Against Sewage chief Hugo Tagholm simply called the partnership “ridiculous”.
Some of the UK’s biggest environmental campaigning groups have been quick to criticise the partnership as hypocritical.
“The idea of Shell helping British Cycling reach net zero is as absurd as beef farmers advising lettuce farmers on how to go vegan,” said Greenpeace UK’s policy director Dr Doug Parr.
“After being booted out of museums and other cultural institutions, Big Oil are looking at sports as the next frontier for their brazen greenwash. But their aim hasn’t changed – to distract from the inconvenient fact that the fossil fuel industry is making our planet uninhabitable.”
To Parr’s point, earlier this year, the National Portrait Gallery and Scottish Ballet announced plans to end sponsorship deals with BP ahead of schedule. Back in 2019, the Royal Shakespeare Company stopped working with BP two years into a five-year deal.