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Shell accused of greenwashing by climate group in claim to SEC

The logo of Shell is displayed Oct. 23 on an oil storage silo beyond railway tanker cars at the company’s Pernis refinery in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Peter Boer/Bloomberg)
By William Mathis and Austin Weinstein Bloomberg


A climate activist group is urging the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Shell’s claims about its investments in renewable energy are misleading to investors.

Global Witness said that it filed a complaint with the SEC’s Climate and ESG Task Force and through the agency’s tips portal over Shell’s statements on renewables. The London-based energy giant may have “materially misstated its financial commitment to renewable sources of energy,” the nonprofit said in a copy of the filing reviewed by Bloomberg News.

The greenwashing allegation, which Shell denies, adds to efforts to heap pressure on some of the world’s biggest polluting companies as regulators take an increasing interest in climate change. It comes on the heels of a 2021 court ruling in the Netherlands ordering Shell to cut its carbon emissions more aggressively. The company is appealing that decision.

Complaints and tips to the SEC can lead to probes by the regulator’s enforcement unit, or it may decide not to pursue them at all. The SEC did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The agency’s climate task force is part of its enforcement division.

At the core of Global Witness’s complaint is Shell’s reporting of investments in its Renewables and Energy Solutions segment. It includes solar and wind power generation, but also power trading, carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen production. Global Witness says the labeling of the category is misleading.“Despite its title, a significant portion of Shell’s spending on Renewables and Energy Solutions appears to be directed toward the marketing and trading of ‘natural’ gas – a fossil fuel – and gas-generated power,” it said.

Shell is seeking to expand its low-carbon energy business in the coming decades as it tries to achieve a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. Capital expenditures in the Renewables and Energy Solutions unit are poised to have hit a record in 2022, based on previous quarterly earnings.

The company reports its fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday.