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Shell’s Magical Makeover: Introducing “Onward,” The Climate Tech Venture with a Side of Irony

It’s like watching a villain in a movie trying to convince the world they’ve turned over a new leaf, all while planning their next scheme.

Posted by John Donovan: 8 Feb 24

In a world where branding can apparently solve everything, including the pesky little issue of climate change, Shell has pulled a rabbit out of its hat with the launch of its rebranded climate tech venture, Onward. Yes, folks, the same Shell known for its heartfelt dedication to fossil fuels and making a mint while the planet burns, is now donning the cape of a climate saviour. 

Onward, previously masquerading under the incognito name Studio X, aims to dazzle us with the promise of cutting-edge technologies across the energy sector. Because nothing says “We care about the environment” like a company that’s been a key player in getting us into this mess in the first place.

The newly assembled five-member advisory board reads like a who’s who of sustainability and innovation, featuring luminaries such as Nike’s chief sustainability officer and the CEO of the non-profit XPRIZE Foundation. Their mission? To steer Shell’s shiny new toy towards collaborative energy and climate tech innovation. Let’s give a warm round of applause for the advisory board’s willingness to guide this behemoth on a path that’s supposedly greener than its oil-stained history.

Onward’s mission is as lofty as it is laughable: connecting innovators to tackle energy and climate challenges, hosting a startup accelerator for “moonshot” energy projects, and, wait for it, providing capital funding for new technologies. Because if there’s one thing Shell has, it’s capital—over £22bn in profits for 2023 alone. And how much of that is going into this low-carbon business? A generous 23 percent, while controversially shelving plans to reduce oil and gas production. Ah, the sweet smell of hypocrisy in the morning.

Chief Executive Jeff Allyn is practically bursting with excitement, proclaiming, “The new identity is inherent to the mission itself: to move Onward toward novel energy solutions and net zero goals.” Well, Jeff, moving onward from a history of environmental degradation is going to take a bit more than a rebrand and a dream team advisory board, but A for effort.

And let’s not forget Shell’s commitment to “constructive engagement” with shareholders, despite a group of 27 major investors waving red flags about the company’s alignment with the Paris Agreement. Shell’s response? Essentially, “Trust us, we’re on it.” Because if history has taught us anything, it’s that Shell’s assurances are as solid as a chocolate teapot in a heatwave.

So, here’s to Onward, Shell’s latest attempt at greenwashing its image with a splash of climate tech innovation. It’s like watching a villain in a movie trying to convince the world they’ve turned over a new leaf, all while planning their next scheme. Grab your popcorn, folks; this is going to be one heck of a show.

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