Shell employees have said they are “deeply concerned” by the oil giant’s shift away from green energy in a blistering open letter to the chief executive.
Wael Sawan, chief executive of Shell, has set out plans to scale back the company’s investment in renewables in a bid to boost profits.
The strategy could involve the FTSE 100 company selling a stake in or even spinning off its global renewable power business entirely. It recently scrapped the role of global head of renewables.
The open letter, which was posted on Shell’s internal website and seen by Reuters, read: “For a long time, it has been Shell’s ambition to be a leader in the energy transition. It is the reason we work here.
“The recent announcements at and after the capital markets day deeply concern us ... We can only hope the optics of the CMD [Capital Markets Day] announcements are deceiving us and that Shell continues its path as a leader in the energy transition.”
The letter, which was addressed to Mr Sawan and Shell’s executive committee, was signed by Lisette de Heiden and Wouter Drinkwaard, two employees in the company’s low-carbon division.
The public rebuke was viewed more than 80,000 times on Shell’s internal website and prompted a string of responses from other employees.
Responding to the letter, Mr Sawan said: “For an organisation at the crux of the energy transition, there are no easy answers and no shortage of dilemmas or challenges. We might not always agree on the way forward, but I feel good about the role Shell is, and will continue, to play.
“I am proud of how we provide affordable and secure energy to people every day, while we work hard to provide lower-carbon solutions to our customers, as we transition over time to a net-zero emissions business.”
The internal backlash highlights the dilemma facing Shell as it tries to navigate the shift to renewable energy sources while managing investor demands.
Shares in rival BP, whose chief executive announced his shock resignation earlier this month, have underperformed in recent years as it pumps money into renewables amid surging energy prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Separately on Wednesday, French energy group Total said it will boost fossil fuel production over the next five years in a sharp reversal of its previous policy.
A Shell spokesman denied that the company had changed its strategy, insisting it was still committed to its aim of becoming a net zero emissions business by 2050.
The spokesman added: “We appreciate that our staff are engaged in and have passion for both the energy transition and Shell. That is important and we welcome an open dialogue.
“Shell is playing a meaningful role in addressing the energy transition, and at our recent Capital Markets Day we set out those areas of the energy system of today and tomorrow where we are best placed to invest, compete and win.
“In particular, we have competitive advantages in producing lower-carbon oil, selling LNG [liquified natural gas] that replaces coal, and offering customers low-carbon solutions through EV charging, biofuels and renewable power.”