Clean Energy Capital’s CEO, Alexander Goodall, discusses the continual problems of greenwashing and issues a ‘call to action’ to the Large Power Users of the UK!
As a leader of a clean energy business supplier, throughout my job, I work closely with some of the largest global corporations, and I continue to witness a concerning trend. Many of these companies take the easy way out, repeatedly. They opt to buy REGOs (Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin) and/or traditional corporate PPAs from existing renewable energy assets, doing the bare minimum expected of them by consumers. This allows them to claim that they are 100% renewable, without prioritising the creation of new renewable energy sources.
In short, this is effectively ‘greenwashing’ - claiming to their customers that they are providing more environmentally friendly promises and services than they realistically are. A recent example of this is the news of BP’s scaled-back climate targets from 2022. Whilst the company celebrated record-high profits from the period, promised plans to reduce their oil and gas usage were simultaneously scrapped as well. With a claim that the need to invest in harmful energy sources was due to ‘rising customer demand’ and their actions were simply a consequence of the Russia/Ukraine war, this step back from decarbonisation demonstrated a true lack of commitment from the energy giant.
These industry-leading companies are undoubtedly profiteering from global instabilities and socio-economic crises. Not only are they refusing to re-invest the capital into renewable energy but they seem to, in fact, double-down on their unsustainable strategies by reinvesting their profits into oil and gas!
A clear example of this is the recent revelations of Shell’s renewable investment scaling. In February 2023, the gas and oil titan also received backlash for its refusal to increase investment in renewable energy sources. Described as ‘hitting the brakes’ on growing their renewables unit, despite hitting a record year of profit in 2022, it has been revealed that Shell’s total investment in sustainable energy is still less than half of their spend on gas, oil and coal. Highlighting the appeal of high profits for their shareholders, it described the investment strategy as ‘making sure that our investments go into the areas where we can see line of sight toward attractive returns’. Whilst it’s clear that keeping shareholders happy is crucial for such a large organisation, it’s also important to recognise the sacrifices being made to appease them.
What baffles me, however, is the lack of genuine care or commitment to make a net benefit to the world. Profit seems to be the sole driving force behind these decisions and whilst I can understand this to some extent, there is no real pressure from governments to hold the largest polluters accountable or to push them to lower their emissions. It also appears that the government proactively supports this - with huge tax breaks granted for both R&D exploration in oil and gas whilst simultaneously refusing to give meaningful tax breaks, or any form of support, to the renewables space. In fact, the government insists on taxing renewables - not even on profit, but indeed, on turnover!
In short, sustainability is seen as an inconvenience and non-core to these industries and governments, with the perception that sustainability is not their core business taking precedence.
I am yet to see a single company genuinely prioritise the climate crisis over the inconvenience of taking concrete action and profitability. There are no accountability targets, no penalties, no drive or reason to actually follow through with their sustainability plans, by the Government or through self-governance.
Even if renewable energy can provide a long-term solution, almost every organisation is only ever after short-term, quick wins, even with a negative cost. For example, the cost of REGOs in an attempt to ‘greenwash’ and hoodwink the general public is often a more popular choice than a cost-saving, P&L-positive impact over a long term with solutions such as private wire renewables and new asset Corporate PPAs.
Here’s a surprising fact: transitioning to green energy is not only the responsible choice, but it’s also economically and strategically advantageous - Renewable energy sources currently offer power that is 20-40% cheaper than fossil fuels! So, why are companies hesitant to embrace this opportunity?
I issue a challenge to these companies: prove me wrong!
We want to see companies rise to the occasion and demonstrate their dedication to a sustainable future. Show us that you are committed to creating new renewable energy assets, rather than relying solely on purchased certificates. It’s time to move beyond greenwashing and make a real difference!
Moreover, I urge companies to ensure that initiatives like these don’t get stuck or killed in the procurement process - with so much evidence of this happening in the past. Let’s work together to break down barriers and drive progress towards a greener future.
It’s important to note that, as individuals, we cannot bear the burden alone. Governments must mandate the use of green power and the creation of new renewable energy sources for meaningful change to occur. We need to hold major power consumers accountable for their actions and demand corporate responsibility from all of those involved.
So why not join me in advocating for government and corporate action and sustainable practices amongst the largest power users? Together, let’s prove that caring for the planet and pursuing profit are not mutually exclusive.
If our energy is unsustainable, so is our existence!
To find out more about your options, as a business owner, for a cleaner and greener business model, speak to one of our Clean Energy Capital team today.