A tale of Coldplay, greenwashing and deforestation

May 31, 2022

Coldplay’s ‘green’ travel plan undermined by links to deforestation

It’s rare that T&E’s work on transport and climate topics crosses paths with one of the world’s biggest pop bands. But earlier this month that is exactly what happened when T&E broke a story with the Guardian exposing the oil refiner Neste’s cynical use of Coldplay to greenwash its reputation. The story went around the world to uncharted places like Billboard and many tabloid publications.

The case against the partnership is clear. Neste has a track record of scandals, including sourcing from palm oil mills linked to deforestation. They do not release much quantitative information on the feedstocks they use to create biofuels, but are among the largest users of crude palm oil and also palm oil derivatives. Their sustainable fuels are based on used cooking oil (UCO), of which half of the UCO used in Europe is imported, mostly from China, Indonesia and Malaysia, raising questions about it being truly ‘used’.

Another key feedstock for Neste are animal fats, mostly sourced from industrial animal farming, which has led to animal welfare concerns.  To secure supplies Neste bought the company Demeter, one of Europe’s major traders of such fats.  What would Coldplay’s many vegan fans think of that?

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Many rushed to Coldplay’s defence to say that they are doing the best they can. But, in truth, this was never an attack on Coldplay. In trying to cut their CO2 emissions from their upcoming Music Of The Spheres World tour, the band should be applauded. But partnering up with Neste was a mistake. Greenwashing is insidious. While it can make us feel better about ourselves, it undermines efforts to pursue genuinely clean alternatives. We don’t ask for ecological purity, but giving legitimacy to a company with links to deforestation is a step too far. 

It’s time for Chris Martin and his team to drop Neste and choose a truly sustainable partnership instead. Right now its green efforts are all a bit Yellow.

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