A Russell Group university asked Ridgeway to support senior leadership decision-making on continued financial and research relationships with major energy companies. Our client required insight on if these relationships aligned with the university’s position on addressing climate change, having recently adopted new guidance on accepting external funding.

Our approach

Collaborating closely with university staff, Ridgeway identified and highlighted the truly critical factors in this analysis by:

  • undertaking an exhaustive investigation of the energy companies in question;

  • independently verifying each company’s environmental standing and commitment; and

  • producing a comprehensive sector overview explaining and contextualising climate change concepts, technologies and standards, to provide a baseline for judging individual company performance.

Critical insights and key findings

Many energy companies present green initiatives in ways that emphasise their proactive environmental commitments whilst diluting their detrimental impact. Ridgeway uncovered and investigated a broader evidence base for each company, uncovering problematic examples that did not support these claims.

We provided a detailed historical overview of each company’s previous environmental commitments, and whether these had been fulfilled. Several times, a company’s track record raised questions around the credibility of their contemporary environmental commitments.

Our analysis extended to subsidiaries, joint ventures, interests in other companies and assets, including unexploited ones. We applied a range of analytical approaches and examined a wide spread of information and data sources.

We also examined current and historical lobbying activities, including memberships and connections to lobbying organisations.

We undertook a similarly detailed analysis of senior leadership recruitment sequencing. In light of concerns of ‘green-washing’, we tracked each company’s C-Suite recruitment and retention to assess whether this correlated to changing positions and initiatives on climate action.

To contextualise the position of our client, Ridgeway also examined and considered the record of the handful of globally-leading universities with similar relationships in the energy sector. This assessment provided peer comparison regarding the positioning of the client.

Key outcomes

In the context of increasing scrutiny of the issues, Ridgeway delivered a detailed analysis and assessment of the context and risks against the benefits of continuing these relationships. The report was well received and achieved it’s objective of supporting the university’s senior leadership, enabling them to make an informed, grounded and defensible decision on the continuation of these strategic relationships.