'Green' Multinationals Exposed How the energy transition is being hijacked by corporate interests

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180 minutes read

For over a century, energy multinationals have been wrecking the planet and exploiting people in pursuit of profit. Now, power producers and technology manufacturers are marketing themselves as ‘green’ to boost their reputation and benefit from public subsidies, grabbing lands, violating human rights and destroying communities along the way. Our investigation of fifteen ‘green’ multinationals conclusively shows that financial returns, not decarbonisation, is their primary business. ‘Green’ capital has taken over the energy transition, dictating its pace and blocking climate policies that hamper its profits. It is time to take on these greenwashing corporations and reclaim the entire energy sector through public ownership and democratic governance.

Below you can find the full report, the common findings, and the individual profiles of the fifteen multinationals for download.

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About 'green' multinationals exposed

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Table of contents


  2. Most multinationals that promote themselves as ‘green’ still back fossil fuels

  3. Some European energy companies divested by selling or spinning off their fossil assets, but these continue to be operated

  4. Green’ multinationals greenwash their dirty energy assets, particularly through green certificates and carbon offsets

  5. Most of what multinationals label as ‘green energy’ is actually not so green


  6. ‘Green’ multinationals’ renewable energy projects typically rely on public subsidies

  7. ‘Green’ multinationals and the financial sector are deeply interconnected

  8.  ‘Green’ multinationals are implicated in profiteering from price hikes and market manipulation

  9. Some ‘green’ multinationals made bumper profits from the war in Ukraine


  10. Big solar and wind projects run by ‘green’ multinationals are often linked to land grabbing and human rights violations

  11.  ‘Green’ energy technologies are implicated within mining and production processes that abuse the rights of local communities and harm the environment

  12. ‘Green’ multinationals violate workers’ rights related
    to salaries, forced labour, union busting and unsafe labour conditions


  13. ‘Green’ multinationals tend to prioritise large projects that benefit themselves or other multinationals

  14. Some ‘green multinationals’ are pushing back against small-scale renewable energy

  15. Many ‘green’ multinationals use fossil fuel capital to buy out smaller renewable energy companies

  16. ‘Green’ multinationals are exercising huge amounts of influence over governments



Large multinational energy firms increasingly promote themselves as ‘green’, arguing that they are at the forefront of the energy transition. In reality, these companies have hijacked the transition in order to protect their profits.

‘Green’ multinationals largely behave like fossil fuel giants — no surprise, giv- en that many of these firms are primarily fossil fuel companies. This is true both of private transnational corporations and large state-owned conglom- erates, with many of the latter adopting — especially outside the countries where they are based — profit-driven business models that wreak social and environmental havoc. No meaningful energy transition can take place un- til these greenwashing corporations are dismantled and replaced by a publicly-owned and democratically organised energy sector that is not run for profit.

The findings below are based on profiles of 15 companies, including some of the world’s biggest energy multinationals that are supposedly green in terms of the renewable energy that they produce (or claim to produce) or the transition technology that they manufacture. These firms purport to be at the forefront of climate action — and in doing so, give the impression that the public can simply count on market forces and industry to decarbonise society. Yet these profiles provide evidence that these companies have been consistently undermining energy transition efforts.

The 15 companies profiled in this report have spent a combined total of US$130.77 billion in dividends and US$24.80 billion in share buybacks between 2016 and 2022 — all while still relying on public money to invest in new projects. In total, they made a profit of US$175.86 billion between 2016 and 2022. This is more than seven times the real financial support that rich countries have provided to poor nations to tackle and adapt to climate change (despite pledging US$100 billion a year in 2009). They have continued to amass profits while the world — particularly poor, Southern and racialised communities — has been suffering from the COVID-19 pandem- ic, climate breakdown, the worst energy crisis in decades and a subsequent cost of living crisis, pushing many more millions into poverty.

To compile the company profiles, we collected financial data on each compa- ny’s business activities, history and shareholders — alongside information on the social, environmental and political impacts connected to their corporate practices.

The companies profiled are mostly (but not exclusively) energy firms based in North America and Europe: British Gas/Centrica, EDF Renewables, Enbridge Inc., Endesa, E.On, Engie SA, Iberdrola, NextEra Energy, Inc., Ørsted A/S, South- ern Company, Vattenfall. Another profiled company, Adani Green Energy Lim- ited, is based in India. In addition, our profiles include two suppliers of key equipment for solar and wind technologies (JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy S.A.) and a car- and battery-manufacturer (Tesla, Inc.).

We selected this cross-section of firms from different industry sub-sectors to demonstrate the need to reclaim and transform the energy industry as a whole — from manufacturing to retail, generation to distribution, electric vehicles to storage.

This research was coordinated by the Transnational Institute and executed by CorpWatch, Observatoire des multinationales and Observatori del Deute en la Globalització, all of which are part of the European Network of Corporate Observatories.

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