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Greenpeace criticises New Zealand Rugby deal with petrochemical company Ineos

New Zealand Rugby’s decision to sign a six-year deal with global petrochemical company Ineos has been criticised by Greenpeace, who said it fundamentally goes against the country’s “clean, green” values.

NZ Rugby announced the company will become the official performance partner for its seven teams from 2022. Ineos is a UK oil, gas and petrochemical conglomerate – the third largest company of its kind in the world. Its main shareholder is billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, and the company has lobbied to weaken green taxes and reduce restrictions on fracking.

The company partners with multiple sport teams and it is not the first time it has been accused of using sports to ‘greenwash’ its reputation. In 2019 the company’s deal with the UK’s top cycling team was met with protest.

Earlier this year, Ineos agreed to become a cornerstone investor in a new “clean” hydrogen fund. On its website, it said its businesses have “put in place the plans and actions needed to ensure that they lead the transition to a net zero economy by no later than 2050, whilst remaining profitable, and staying ahead of evolving regulations and legislation”.

NZ Rugby’s chief executive Mark Robinson said the partnership is “an exciting new venture”.

“Ineos will bring an innovative approach and dedication to the partnership with our Teams in Black, qualities we see across all aspects of their business, particularly around sustainability with their commitment to deliver a zero-carbon emission future in line with the Paris Agreement,” Robinson said.

The Ineos logo will appear on the backs of playing shorts and on the front of the training jersey of each of NZ Rugby’s Teams in Black, including the All Blacks and the Black Ferns, from 2022.

In a statement, Ratcliffe said the company was delighted to partner with the All Blacks.

“They have consistently shown the grit and determination needed to perform at the highest level of sport and there will be a lot that we can learn from them,” he said.

But Greenpeace has spoken out against the decision. Last month, the group attempted to lobby against the then-pending deal.

“In the thick of the climate crisis, it’s gutting to see NZ Rugby sign a sponsorship deal with an oil and gas polluting conglomerate like Ineos that is responsible for driving us deeper into the climate crisis, and fouling the oceans with plastic pollution,” Greenpeace campaigner Juressa Lee said.

According to the Plastic Waste Makers Index, Ineos sits at 13th in the world for production of single-use plastics – one of just 20 companies that produce 90% of the world’s single-use plastics.

“Oil companies like Ineos know that their time has come and that the world is turning away from fossil fuels and plastic. They are desperate to associate themselves with popular brands like the All Blacks and with New Zealand’s good name, but we shouldn’t let them get away with it,” said Lee.

She added that many rugby players are Maori and Pasifika, and shouldn’t have to be made to wear the logo, when their communities are on the “frontline of sea level rise and extreme storm events.”

“The sponsorship deal also goes against one of the most important stands New Zealand has taken against climate change by being one of the first countries to ban new offshore oil and gas exploration,” Greenpeace campaigner Steve Abel said last month.

Mark Robinson told RNZ he was comfortable with the decision and said it was a move NZ Rugby did not take lightly.

“We know that rugby in this country attracts a lot of scrutiny and any major decision we make comes with a fair degree of accountability as well. So, we expect that, we welcome it, we think it’s healthy for the game and for discussions within New Zealand and certainly we’re really comfortable with the due diligence we’ve done,” Robinson said.

The Guardian has approached Ineos and NZ Rugby for comment.

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