Science museum

Science Museum Used ‘Deceptive’ Tool to Justify Sponsorship of Large Oil Tanker | New

The Science Museum used a “totally inappropriate” climate action criterion to justify Shell sponsorship of a major exhibition.

The museum claims it is the first in the UK’s cultural sector to assess potential sponsors against the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), but critics say it relied “misleadingly” on a facet of the tool, a four-point management quality index.

A spokesperson for the Science Museum Group said it “encourages” potential and current partners to work towards level 3 on the index, which means companies are integrating emissions management into their operations.


Emails released under the Freedom of Information Act show the museum spent five months negotiating a sponsorship deal with the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) before pulling out because of one of the 12 member companies – Saudi Aramco – fell to level 2.

However, Petrochina, the trading arm of the Chinese National Petroleum Company, another OGCI member, also scored below the Science Museum Group standard.

And the museum has reportedly given a free pass to OGCI partners who do not appear on the TPI index, say communications from its director Sir Ian Blatchford.

“It was really worrying that the Science Museum Group criteria suggested sponsorship deals with the other 11 companies, such as Exxon and Chevron, might still be acceptable,” said Chris Garrard, co-director of the campaign group. Culture Unstained.

Culture Unstained’s investigation last week uncovered a gagging clause in the sponsorship agreement prohibiting employees from making statements that could damage Shell’s reputation.

The Science Museum says this is a standard clause; indeed, the agreement also limits what Shell can say about the museum.

Science Museum Group (SMG) Acting Managing Director Jonathan Newby dismissed claims that Shell had any influence over the ‘Our Future Planet’ exhibit after emails showed its staff had been shut down. in contact with the curators.

Sponsorship was agreed after the content of the exhibit was determined, says SMG.

“We view the comprehensive approach demanded by some activists to sever all relations with energy companies as unproductive,” Newby said.

Ethical standards

The Science Museum’s bar for potential sponsors is lower than its own emissions reduction target, which is in line with the internationally recognized Paris Agreement target.

Oil companies at TPI level 3 have a board member responsible for climate change policy, report their emissions and set targets to reduce them, although there is no single target. for industry.

SMG says the TPI “has quickly become the go-to benchmark for corporate climate action,” repeating TPI’s own communications. The tool was designed and is primarily used by investors.

Shell is classified at level 4, although TPI co-chair Adam Matthews notes that it is still not aligned with the Paris Agreement. Three months after SMG accepted the sponsorship deal, Shell was ordered by a Dutch court to cut its emissions by 45%.

Bridget McKenzie, founder of the Climate Museum, said the Science Museum’s use of TPI to justify its relationship with Shell was inappropriate.

“The only ethical energy company is one that is 100% regenerative, going beyond even renewables to ensure it restores and protects biodiversity and human rights.”

SMG’s due diligence in Shell noted a host of environmental issues, four court cases relating to corruption, bribery and undue political influence, and a settlement of US $ 15.5 million for alleged violations of the law. human rights in Nigeria (the company has never accepted its responsibility).

“Fossil fuel companies have known their operations have catastrophic consequences for decades, but they have hidden the science and sowed the seeds of doubt in order to increase their damage and profits,” McKenzie said.

“It is not possible for them to become acceptable by making incremental improvements and promises of action for some time to come.”

Precautionary principle

McKenzie said museums seeking sponsorship should apply a “precautionary principle”: “If you can’t be sure your project or its funder will cause harm, don’t do it.”

It is important to undertake research on potential sponsors and invite the public’s opinions on how your institution generates income, she added.

“If you set limits on unacceptable sponsors, think about which businesses are most destructive to the biosphere and which have the least likelihood of positive change. “

The Museums Association’s code of ethics does not blacklist companies with which museums should not associate, but recommends examining the ethical standards of potential sponsors “with a view to maintaining trust and confidence. ‘integrity of the public in all museum activities’.

Last week, climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted: “The ‘Science’ museum just killed irony and their own reputation.”

Culture Unstained co-director Jess Worth agreed.

“What kind of science museum does not base its decisions on climate science but rather supports Big Oil’s ultimate attempts to protect its profits and reputation?”

“These companies have repeatedly received failing ratings for their climate change performance, but somehow the museum has found one of the only reviewers who will give them a pass. . “

Julie’s Bicycle, which helps arts and culture organizations take action on the climate crisis, was approached for comment but did not respond until the publication deadline.


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