Greenwashing and Retrofit

Greenwashing and Retrofit
Photo by Chris Liverani / Unsplash

What if everything you say is being co-opted by people with the wrong agenda?

This has been a difficult article to write.

We're (me) the magazine is a boot strapping new product on a crowded media space. People want truth and sometimes it's hard to find.

You can make yourself unpopular.

So before you read any further you should know this. Refurb and Retrofit is a media resource born out of frustration and desire.

The publication is independent and you cannot buy access to the thousands of people who are reading these articles.

I as a journalist am piqued but as a Dad, want to know if my children can inhabit a world which is, inhabitable. But it's difficult.

Extinction Rebellion Protest - Copyright ER

Let's talk about Extinction Rebellion. I (the editor - it's just me) made videos for them. It was an argument that, after physical action was being listened to.

However, nobody likes to be alienated. And some of the actions of the ER offshoots haven't worked so well.

In fact, the best people to employ in a conflict environment to bring people together, is the mediators.

The unsung heroes of the Northern Ireland conflict were the acolytes of Mow Mowlam who churned through the paperwork, listened in the smoky rooms and ironed out the differences and found the common ground.

So now, the here and now.

Our climate crisis is not going away. So when the Innovation Zero event arrived in my notifications. I thought, well I'm in.

Then I saw one of the main sponsors. BP.

Main sponsors of Innovation Zero

British Petroleum.


So ask yourself, is that ethical, is that right? Then.

Credit - LinkedIn Jessie Frahm

I saw post by Jessie Frahm who I follow. She was pretty fed up. She's like a proper influencer in our world, the sustainability world.

But rather than get into a bun fight with BP I thought, first, let's get Jessie to answer some questions, then, I'll find out what BP actually think they are doing too.

So here's the first part, over to Jessie;

Q1. Do sustainability work/conferences need to divest themselves from GHG industries like Oil and Gas?

We need to act on the fact that the fossil fuel industry has long exercised significant influence over governmental policies through relentless lobbying, securing prominent roles at major climate summits like the COP events. Their strategic presence is not only there to enhance their image but also to obstruct substantive climate action. Despite our initial hopes that companies such as BP, Shell, and Equinor would pivot towards genuine sustainability, they continue to announce record profits, while disappointing us by retracting their climate commitments, or simply not hitting their own targets. This is why it is important for organisers of conferences and summits to meticulously select their allies, as they have a responsibility to ensure partnerships are formed with entities truly dedicated to environmental progress. Can an event organiser challenge bad business conduct in public or are their money buying their silence? I think the answer is yes! This is why a careful selection is crucial for advancing meaningful and effective sustainability agendas, giving voice and room for those that are ready to transition.

 Q2. Is corporate sponsorship legitimate for GHG company when the aims of the conference are to innovate to fight climate change?

No, we must hold fossil fuel companies to a higher standard before allowing them the privilege of sponsorship at climate change conferences. These companies have the financial resources necessary to implement significant changes but have historically chosen not to. We’ve seen successful transformations in the industry, such as DONG Energy becoming Ørsted, a leader in renewable energy. Therefore, we should demand that sponsors are not just financially invested but also committed to real, actionable change. The risk of not enforcing these standards is that we continue to legitimise entities whose actions contradict the urgent goals of climate innovation. We need genuine innovators who lead with deeds, not empty words.

 Q3. Does the nature of an energy transition mean there will be crossover with people moving from Oil and Gas work to sustainable industries?  Is that ok?

Yes, the transition from oil and gas to sustainable industries will naturally involve significant workforce shifts. For this reason, it is important that we invest in job security and education for those affected, extending beyond corporate employees to those deep within the supply chains. This is our chance to rectify past mistakes and uphold human rights. We need to ensure a just transition, which will require decades of commitment. The good news is that renewable energy sources like solar and wind are now more affordable than ever and are growing at an exponential rate compared to fossil fuels. This is why we need to keep insisting that we amplify these investments to accelerate the shift toward green energy.

Q4. Do Oil and Gas companies have any legitimacy in climate change actions/activism, or planning?

I’d welcome an activist oil and gas company, but as it stands today, they mostly have no have sufficient legitimacy in climate change initiatives. To genuinely earn this, we need to see significant corporate policy reforms implemented, emphasising their environmental responsibility. These reforms should include ambitious targets aligned with Science Based Targets, including clear action plans for renewable energy transitions and decarbonisation efforts. To build effective strategies, we also need to see collaborations with environmental groups that can help them tackle challenges around human rights and biodiversity protection.The fossil fuel industry is simply not doing their part. According to the International Energy Agency, fossil fuel companies currently spend only about 2.5% of their capital on clean energy technologies, such as renewables and electric vehicle charging, compared to 97.5% on traditional business areas. This investment disparity needs to shift towards at least 50% on clean energy, coupled with actions to significantly cut emissions from their fossil fuel production.

 Q5. Can companies be forgiven for their past misdeeds?

Forgiveness in the context of corporate misdeeds hinges on genuine change and future commitments. While we can foster a culture of forgiveness, it ultimately depends on whether these companies demonstrate tangible improvements and accountability for their actions. I will leave the decision to forgive to future generations, as they are the ones who will live with the long-term outcomes of these actions and can better judge the sincerity and effectiveness of the changes made.

Q6. What common ground, if any to oil and gas companies have with the energy transition.

I believe the most significant common ground for oil and gas companies in the energy transition is their extensive expertise in infrastructure and technical knowledge. To achieve a successful transition, we need to collaborate and acknowledge that both sectors have a mutual interest in ensuring its success. The regulatory landscape is also providing considerable pressure as governments worldwide commit to national energy and climate pledges. If these pledges are met, demand for fossil fuels could fall by 45% below current levels by 2050. So, to achieve this, it’s essential that we work together, leveraging economic incentives to encourage and facilitate the transition towards more sustainable energy solutions.

 Q7. What benchmark for behaviour does allowing GHG industries to headline event sponsorship mean?  Could Philip Morris sponsor a cancer convention?

To me the big question is whether the world is a better place with these businesses in it. For example, I believe that allowing Philip Morris to sponsor a cancer convention would be absurd. Similarly, GHG industries headlining environmental events needs to be critically evaluated. If it is this obvious that their presence does not concretely contribute to a better, healthier planet, we need to see their sponsorship as inappropriate because it undermines the event’s integrity. Let’s judge such sponsorships through the lens of their direct impact on people’s lives and our environment.

Q8. Did the participation of BP at Innovation Zero affect the content of the conference?  If your opinion is that this event is an example of green washing, how can we engage with companies like BP to bring them into sustainable practice?

Involving a company like BP in a conference like Innovate Zero can be seen in two lights: knowledge sharing or greenwashing. Inviting them to participate in dialogue is essential—no one is persuaded in isolation. However, by positioning them as a key sponsor it is my view that we risk legitimising their less sustainable practices and could conflict with the event’s objectives if their actions don’t align with genuine sustainability goals. To engage constructively with companies like BP, it’s crucial to set clear expectations for their participation and contributions. We should encourage transparency and accountability for tangible sustainability efforts, not just symbolic gestures. By limiting their role to dialogue rather than sponsorship, we ensure that their involvement promotes substantive change rather than mere image enhancement, pushing the conversation forward in meaningful ways.

Now, if you have reached this point, you'll realise we have some work to do.

As a minor, new publication we want to encourage active debate, so BP will be able to post a response.

That's fair.

But for now, we didn't go, Refurb and Retrofit wasn't there.

And that feels right.