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British Cycling and Shell - a statement

VeloVixen 14.10.22

This has been a challenging week for cycling with the announcement that British Cycling, the national governing body for cycling in the UK, has signed an 8-year partnership with Shell UK an Official Partner. The deal runs until the end of 2030.

In British Cycling's words:

"This new partnership will see a shared commitment to; supporting Great Britain’s cyclists and para-cyclists through the sharing of world-class innovation and expertise; accelerating British Cycling’s path to net zero; and helping more – and wider groups of – people to ride, including ways to make cycling more accessible for disabled people. 

The partnership fits with British Cycling’s wider ambition to work with a broader range of commercial partners to support the delivery of the organisation’s strategy, ‘Lead Our Sport, Inspire Our Communities’."

 

At VeloVixen, we have enjoyed a great relationship with British Cycling since our earliest days, working together to help support initiatives such as Breeze and other campaigns to help progress cycling in this country. We think highly of the team at British Cycling, who work tirelessly to make cycling more accessible and enjoyable for all levels.

We have also enjoyed a more formal link with British Cycling since 2017, as one of their chosen retailers offering exclusive discounts to BC's almost 150,000 members. We believe that this arrangement has brought many positives for all sides.

The signing of the Shell UK partnership agreement, however, has prompted animated debate on both sides.

We are the first to acknowledge that few situations are clear cut, and that there are nuances that often go unmentioned within a polarising topic such as this.

With this in mind, we recognise that Shell UK's investment will bring significant and much needed finance to cycling in Britain. As cyclists, we all know how underfunded so many areas are, from urban infrastructure to para sport, disability and beginners' cycling. The new investment will no doubt help some of these areas to thrive and more people to get on their bikes.

We also accept that Shell have substantial commitments in absolute sums to renewable energy and an ultimate move towards net zero. It is clear that without major input from the biggest energy firms, the move to net zero and full reliance on renewable sources of energy will be constrained.

And we were interested by Sir Chris Hoy's thoughts that the deal may allow British Cycling to have some input on Shell's direction from the 'inside'.

However.

Shell remain firmly within the world's Top 10 Most Polluting Companies, with the most recent data putting them at no.9. Their 2019 announcement of a $300m programme to invest in natural ecosystems as part of its strategy to act on global climate change pales into insignificance alongside its profit of $11.5bn for the three months to the end of June 2022 alone, which was derived largely from fossil fuel sources.

It would not be right for us at VeloVixen to comment on the widespread reports about the disparities between Shell's public statements regarding their commitment to net zero and renewable energy as against internal staff guidance to the contrary.

 

With all this in mind, and with a heavy heart, we feel it is only right for us to withdraw from our formal association with British Cycling for as long as the Shell UK agreement remains in place. We have had an honest conversation with BC and they have taken our points graciously.

We are keenly aware of large numbers of our own community, customers and other BC members who would consider similar action but - with so many cycling events and organisations contingent on BC membership - are unable to show their feelings by taking tangible action. We are not restrained in this way, and so feel it is especially incumbent on us to take tangible action on their behalf.

In our opinion, partnering with a company such as Shell UK is a profound misjudgement of the prevailing sentiment amongst BC's membership, and the cycling sector more broadly. There is no question that raising money is exceptionally hard in the current climate, but it is hard to justify finance that comes shrouded in such controversy.

We remain keen to help British Cycling in their aims to promote cycling in any way we can, and have agreed to keep in regular contact about ways in which we can make a contribution to cycling through working with them. But we are unable to remain formally associated, however indirectly, with the new arrangement.

With the lapsing of our British Cycling discount code, we would encourage members either to join our Facebook Group, which provides members with a comparable offer, or to use our Bundle Deal.

We hope you understand our decision.

With best wishes,

Liz, Phil & the VV Team

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