If you’re a big oil company like Shell, you want to present a good face to the world. After all, you’ve got a bad rep — you want people to think you’re doing the right thing now, that you’re atoning for past mistakes. So, in that mindset, it makes sense to tell everyone you’re investing in green energy.
But you’re also an oil company. You make money on oil, and green power cuts into your business something fierce. So while you talk a big game about transitioning away from fossil fuels, you’ll be damned if you actually change anything about your business — and maybe, just maybe, you’ll redirect some of those green power funds into something a bit more profitable. That, dear reader, is exactly what a nonprofit group is now alleging Shell did.
The accusation is based around Shell’s green energy division, called Renewables and Energy Solutions. In Shell’s annual reports, the company claims that 12 percent of its capital expenditure dollars — the money a company invests in assets like machinery and software, rather than spending on expenses like payroll and insurance — went to that nominally eco-friendly sector.
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Activist group Global Witness, however, claims the 12 percent figure is misleading. It alleges that much of the Renewables And Energy Solutions division’s money actually goes into non-renewable gas — and that only 1.5 percent of Shell’s capital expenditure money truly goes to green energy. Global Witness accuses the department’s name of being a misdirect, and says it’s meant to mislead investors.
Global Witness is asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to get involved, by investigating Shell’s spending and possibly levying penalties if it finds investors were indeed misled. Whether regulators will step in on the accusation, however, remains to be seen.