Climate Group Accuses Shell of Greenwashing in Complaint to SEC

Climate and environmental sustainability advocacy group Global Witness announced today that it has submitted a complaint to the SEC, accusing energy giant Shell of greenwashing by misleading investors about the amount of investment it is directing towards renewable energy.

According to Global Witness, by lumping in some of its gas-related investments with its spending on renewables, Shell is misleading investors by inflating its overall investment in renewable sources of energy.

In a statement announcing the complaint, Global Witness said:

“Despite fossil fuel giant Shell claiming to spend 12% of its annual expenditure on “Renewables and Energy Solutions”, we found that in reality the company only spends 1.5% of its overall expenditure on solar and wind power generation. Alarmingly, it appears that a significant portion of Shell’s spending on “Renewables and Energy Solutions” actually goes to investments in climate-wrecking gas.”

In 2020, Shell announced a commitment to achieve net zero in its operations by 2050, and in 2021, the company launched its “Powering Progress” strategy, detailing how it will achieve its target to be a net-zero energy business by 2050 across Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, with initiatives including investing in renewable and clean energy solutions.

Even after launching the strategy, however, the company has found itself at the center of action by climate-focused organizations, including a case filed in a Dutch court resulting in an order for the company to slash emissions by 45% by 2030. In the 2021 ruling, the Dutch court judge said that Shell’s energy transition plan was “not concrete and is full of conditions.”

According to Shell’s Renewables and Energy Solutions webpage, the company “is working to provide more renewable and low-carbon energy options for customers through investments in wind, solar, electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, and more.” The company’s annual report outlines the activities comprising the unit, which include generating electricity through wind and solar, providing electricity storage, marketing and trading gas and power, selling gas and power to commercial, industrial and retail customers, providing electric vehicle charging services, and providing customers with digitally enabled solutions.

While the report says that Shell’s capital expenditures in the Renewables and Energy Solutions was $2.4 billion in 2021, Global Witness said in its complaint that it estimates that only $288 million was directed towards wind and solar power generation.

In its statement, the group said:

“Global Witness calls on the SEC to investigate Shell’s greenwashing of its fossil gas investments to determine if Shell violated relevant US securities laws, and if appropriate, to impose fines and to prohibit Shell from further violations.”

In a statement provided by Shell to ESG Today, a company spokesperson said:

“Shell is confident that its financial disclosures are fully compliant with all SEC and other reporting requirements.”