Environmental groups including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace UK have branded oil and gas giant Shell's eight year partnership deal with British Cycling an "absurd" and "cynical PR initiative".
British Cycling said that its long term deal with Shell will bring in “wide-ranging support and investment” as well as helping to accelerate the organisation's path to net zero.
However, Friends of the Earth told Cycling Weekly that Shell should have been told to “get on its bike” by British Cycling instead of a long term partnership deal being inked between the two.
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Jamie Peters said: “Cycling is the epitome of environmentally friendly travel. It’s deeply disappointing that British Cycling could think it’s appropriate to partner with a fossil fuel giant. Shell is continuing to invest billions in oil and gas projects, while using cynical PR initiatives like this partnership to attempt to greenwash its harmful activities.
"Tobacco firms are rightly banned from sports sponsorship due to the damaging health effects. The same should apply to oil and gas companies which are devastating the health of our planet. Shell should have been told to get on its bike.”
Greenpeace UK policy director Dr Doug Parr said the idea that Shell would help the national governing body reach net zero was "as absurd as beef farmers advising lettuce farmers on how to go vegan".
He said: "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. British Cycling missed an opportunity to tell the oil giant the one thing they needed to hear: on your bike, Shell."
Extinction Rebellion echoed the response from Friends of the Earth and a spokesperson said that British Cycling "should be ashamed and embarrassed" to partner with Shell.
The organisation has also called on professional cyclists at the sport's top level to "take a stand" and to "call out British Cycling’s terrible judgement" in partnering with the company.
A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion: “Shell has known for years that major disasters such as the death and displacement of over 30 million people in Pakistan would be the result of continuing to extract fossil fuels and they hid this from the public.
"We hope that professional cyclists will take a stand against this partnership and call out British Cycling’s terrible judgement, because they’re the voices who will make the difference here.”
Meanwhile Just Stop Oil say that “no one is fooled” by the new deal and have gone as far as to say that British Cycling are “complicit” in further damaging the environment.
“This is a further example of a fossil fuel company engaged in sports washing its reputation but no-one is fooled. It is time that sporting organisations said no to sponsorship deals from the biggest carbon polluters,” Just Stop Oil said.
“Fossil fuels are destroying the health and the future of the very young people that British Cycling wants to encourage into sport. No-one gets a free pass from climate collapse. Accepting this deal makes British Cycling complicit in pushing the world towards an unliveable climate and in the death of billions of people in the coming decades."
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