Coldplay respond to being called “useful idiots for greenwashing”

The band's partnership with Finnish oil company Neste has been criticised

Coldplay have reacted to a claim that they’re being used as “useful idiots for greenwashing” while they pursue their eco-friendly ‘Music Of The Spheres’ world tour.

The band’s plan to minimise their and their fans’ carbon footprint has been welcomed, although criticism has surfaced regarding companies that they’ve partnered with for help.

Last week Coldplay announced a partnership with Finnish oil company Neste to cut their touring emissions by half. Neste claims to be the world’s largest producer of sustainable biofuels but the firm’s palm oil suppliers cleared at least 24,710 acres of forest in countries including Indonesia and Malaysia between 2019 and 2020 [via Friends Of The Earth].


Carlos Calvo Ambel, a senior director of the Transport and Environment campaign group (T&E) said: “Neste is cynically using Coldplay to greenwash its reputation.

“This is a company that is linked to the kind of deforestation that would appal Chris Martin and his fans. It’s not too late, they should drop their partnership with Neste now and focus on truly clean solutions instead.”

Coldplay perform live on stage at Al Wasl Plaza on February 15, 2022 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Picture: Shlomi Pinto/Getty Images)

Coldplay provided a statement in response to the criticism. “When we announced this tour, we said that we would try our best to make it as sustainable and low carbon-impact as possible, but that it would be a work in progress. That remains true. We don’t claim to have got it all right yet,” they said.

“Before we appointed Neste as supplier of these biofuel products, we received their guarantee that they do not use any virgin materials in their production – most especially not palm oil. It’s still our understanding that they use renewable waste products only, like cooking oil and byproducts from wood pulp manufacture.”

T&E has argued that it’s “dubious” to mark cooking oil out as sustainable when studies suggest that most EU supplies are imports from countries including Indonesia and China [via The Guardian].


Additionally, T&E said that the use of animal fats in cooking oil is linked to agricultural methane emissions, which are a major threat climate change issue. Most fats come from industrial farming.

A key target in Coldplay’s 12-point eco plan is a reduction of CO2 emissions by 50 per cent in comparison to their last tour. The average fan carbon footprint is down around 50 per cent from the band’s ‘A Head Full Of Dreams Tour’, which took place from 2016-2017.

The aim is to “eliminate the use of fossil fuels” in show production as well as land freight.

Coldplay open their ‘Music Of The Spheres’ world tour in Costa Rica. Credit: Stevie Rae Gibbs.

“In most cities – but not yet all – we can achieve this by using a mix of sustainable biofuels and renewable energy,” the band’s statement continued. “We’re also trying to reduce emissions from air travel with sustainable aviation fuel.”

A spokesperson for Neste insisted that the firm “do not accept any sustainability violations in our own operations”. Hanna Leijala told The Guardian: “For our collaboration with Coldplay, conventional palm oil was not used as a raw material.

“Neste plans to reduce the share of conventional palm oil to zero per cent of its global renewable raw material inputs by the end of 2023.”

Currently, crude palm oil accounts for seven per cent of the Neste’s fuel inputs. Its jet fuel is blended from used cooking oil, animal fats and other wastes and residues.

But Neste refused to tell The Guardian what percentage of the jet fuel mix is comprised of palm fatty acid distillates (PFADs), citing “contractual and competitive reasons”. The UK and most EU countries regard PFADs as a byproduct of palm oil refining, but Finland doesn’t.

Separately, Coldplay have been criticised for working with BMW, which is providing rechargeable electric vehicle batteries to power their tour shows. According to a report by Influence Map the car manufacturer is an influential lobbyist for the German car industry.

“Coldplay have been taken for a ride,” Eoin Dubsky, the senior campaign manager for Sum Of Us, added to The Guardian. “BMW is lobbying to prevent the EU from setting a deadline of 2035 for vehicles to be zero emissions only and they have been able to use Coldplay.”

Jonny Buckland, Chris Martin, Will Champion, and Guy Berryman of Coldplay perform onstage at the 2022 iHeartRadio ALTer EGO presented by Capital One at The Forum on January 15, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Picture: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartRadio)

The band’s statement added that they had approached other electric car manufacturers but “BMW were the ones that offered to help”.

“We have no connection to or influence on their corporate policies,” Coldplay continued. “We just need their batteries so that we can power our shows with renewable energy.”

They added: “We are doing our best, and always genuinely welcome suggestions as to how to do it better.”

Coldplay are currently touring North America after kicking off their world tour in Costa Rica in March.

The band has shared details of a special app to accompany their world tour to help their fans plan low-carbon and sustainable travel routes to and from their shows.

They are playing live in support of their ninth studio album, ‘Music Of The Spheres‘, which was released last October. You can find tickets to their upcoming UK dates here.

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