Science Museum Trustees under pressure to drop Adani after new investigation into sponsorship deal

  • Science Museum’s 12-page report into coal-mining conglomerate should have stopped proposed partnership but damning dossier was never shared with Board of Trustees
  • Campaigners publish new hardback photo-book bringing to life contents of museum report and sent to trustees urging them to act on findings and drop Adani deal
  • FOI analysis reveals how Museum leadership rebranded the deal as a partnership with ‘Adani Green Energy’ and commissioned alternative due diligence dossier 
  • Revelations follow Hindenburg Research report accusing Adani of  “one of the largest corporate frauds in history” exposing how it has used its so-called “green” business to help finance coal projects

The trustees of the Science Museum are under pressure this morning to step in and drop Indian conglomerate Adani as the sponsor of their new climate gallery after a new investigation reveals how the partnership was pushed through without the Board reviewing the Museum’s own report into the controversies surrounding the sponsor. That damning internal report, acquired by campaigners under Freedom of Information (FOI) rules, has now been transformed into a powerful new photo-book bringing to life the catalogue of criminal investigations, corruption litigation, environmental issues, cronyism and human rights abuses surrounding Adani. The book was launched today, after individual copies were sent to the museum’s eminent trustees last week. 

PPublished in March 2023, ""Science Museum Group: An unravelling tragedy" transforms the evidence identified in the Museum’s own withheld due diligence report into a powerful new photo-book. It was posted to all current and recent Trustees of the Science Museum Group.

View the interactive digital version of the book here!

The revelations come as the fallout from Hindenburg Research’s recent exposé into Adani continues to grow with the conglomerate accused of “one of the largest corporate frauds in history” and having used its so-called “green” business – which is also the named sponsor of the museum’s new gallery – to help finance coal projects.

‘The Science Museum Group: an unravelling tragedy’ highlights the reality behind the museum’s ‘due diligence’ report, with quotes from communities impacted by Adani and striking images of Indigenous-led resistance to the conglomerate’s coal projects in India and Australia, and sets out how the findings in the report should have been enough to stop the sponsorship in its tracks. 

By issuing copies of the book to members of the Board – which includes Chief Scientist at the Met Office Professor Stephen Belcher, journalist and author Sarah Sands, and former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Baroness Nicky Morgan – the Fossil Free Science Museum coalition, who compiled and published the book, are urging the trustees to act on the evidence and end the partnership before “Energy Revolution: the Adani Green Energy Gallery” opens this coming November. The coalition is a collective of scientists, youth activists, campaigners and frontline solidarity groups that have come together with the goal of ending the museum’s sponsorship deals with fossil fuel companies BP, Shell, Equinor and Adani. 

Uncle Adrian Burragubba, one of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners of the land where Adani is building its Carmichael coal mine.

Adrian Burragubba, spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council and senior cultural custodian, says in a foreword to the book:

“The Science Museum should be respecting the fundamental human rights of Indigenous peoples. Instead, Director Ian Blatchford has dismissed us and chosen to support Adani, a company that is destroying our land and violating our rights. Adani’s coal mine has no Free, Prior and Informed consent from Wangan and Jagalingou people. We know the damage this mine will cause to our ancestral homelands and we continue to oppose it. Adani’s corporate behaviour is in clear violation of human rights, not only of Indigenous people in Australia, but Indigenous people all around the world.”

The Science Museum has previously responded to criticism by insisting that Adani Green Energy, the named sponsor of the new ‘Energy Revolution’ gallery, is entirely separate from its parent company. However, detailed analysis of FOI disclosures obtained by research group Culture Unstained, made public alongside the book, reveal how Museum leadership appear to have cynically rebranded the sponsorship to ‘Adani Green Energy’ in a cosmetic exercise to bypass further scrutiny from the Trustees and dodge controversy.

These new FOI documents reveal how:

  • The Museum had pursued a relationship with the Adani Group, negotiating with and meeting its representatives, including Gautam Adani himself, to agree the deal. It was to the Adani Group that the Museum pitched its new Energy Revolution gallery as “the strongest global profiling opportunity for Adani” and it was on the Adani Group that the original “due diligence” research undertaken by the Museum was commissioned;
  • While this report should have been enough to stop the deal before it started, a small group of the Museum’s leadership appear to have taken the decision to rebrand the partnership as an Adani “Green Energy” deal, commissioning a new due diligence report – turned around within a day – with most of the damning details now removed;
  • The due diligence process was treated as little more than a formality. The Museum Director, who was responsible for referring contentious partnerships to the Board, was pushing negotiations with the Adani Group forward within half an hour of the incriminating report crossing his desk;
  • Even Board approval was treated as a formality: the Museum had, in fact, attempted to finalise a Memorandum of Understanding with Adani even before taking the proposal to a Board meeting; and
  • Museum Director Blatchford claimed that the Board supported the decision although it later emerged that several trustees had raised objections and two – Dr Hannah Fry and Dr Jo Foster – subsequently resigned over the issue

Extract from FOI disclosure where Director Ian Blatchford is forwarded the due diligence report on the Adani Group on the 23rd December 2020

You can view a timeline of the decision-making process and supporting FOI documents here!

Sarah Waldron, Co-director of campaigns and research organisation Culture Unstained, has said:

“The Museum’s Director was so determined to push through this dodgy deal with Adani that he kept the full extent of the museum’s own disturbing findings from them – that’s no way to run a museum. This book forces the trustees to confront the catalogue of controversies surrounding the Adani Group and urges them to act. The trustees must now drop their scandal-hit sponsor and, if they do not, then the fraud allegations, climate impacts and human rights controversies surrounding this coal-mining conglomerate will put a permanent stain on the Science Museum’s reputation.”

Louisa Jones, a museum learning manager, has said: 

“The Science Museum inviting Adani Green Energy to sponsor the Energy Revolution Gallery is a huge step backwards for the credibility of the cultural sector. It risks communicating to visitors that energy companies are the saviours of the climate crisis. At a time when international climate action continues to be thwarted by the fossil fuel lobby, this narrative is a disservice to public education. 

It’s a disservice to the indigenous peoples in India, Indonesia and Australia whose lives, lands and cultural monuments continue to be scarred by Adani’s coal mining operations. It’s a disservice to museum professionals working to build trust and dialogue with communities, not only on climate change but also related issues such as racial justice and decolonisation.”

The Hindenburg Research revelations, which accused Adani of “a brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme over the course of decades”, also describes how “Adani Group companies are intricately and distinctly linked”, further undermining the Science Museum’s claim that Adani Green is a separate business. Adani has now been exposed using its so-called “green” business to help finance the Carmichael coal mine in Australia and Norway’s largest pension fund, KLP, recently dropped its entire Adani Green shareholding because of the unacceptably high risk that its investment could be used to fund coal extraction. 

Amrit Wilson, a member of South Asia Solidarity Group, has said:

“The Adani Group has been exposed as the ‘biggest fraud in corporate history’. It is also now increasingly well-known that Adani is bankrolling and working closely with Narendra Modi whose fascist regime is involved in an on-going genocide of Muslims and Christians. Acting together, the Adani-Modi duo are robbing India’s Adivasi communities of their land and livelihood and locking up the hundreds who resist under draconian colonial era laws. 

Across the central belt of India and increasingly further south, Adani is involved in the criminal destruction of the environment and of India’s biodiversity – all in the interests of mega profits from coal – mining it, transporting it and burning it in massive power stations. While Adani’s shareholders flee, and numerous respectable organisations cut off their links to Adani, it is astonishing and utterly shameful that the Science Museum is still attempting to greenwash this corporation which has become synonymous with destruction and the violence of the fascism which it supports.”

In a foreword to the book, Anya Nanning Ramamurthy from youth climate action group UKSCN London, has said:

“From school trips to holiday visits and even sleepovers, for many of us the Science Museum has been an important part of our childhoods. It is a betrayal to the children they aim to educate and inspire that they are deep in the pockets of oil companies. And even more so, it shows an appalling disregard for the communities worldwide being devastated by Shell, Adani and other fossil fuel companies that the Museum works with. We hope this book educates readers on the truth behind who the Science Museum supports.”

Energy Revolution: the Adani Green Energy Gallery” is due to open this coming November, after the Museum’s partnership with Adani was announced in October 2021, ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit. Two trustees have already resigned from the Board over the decision to accept the sponsorship and many contributors have refused to work with the museum again until it shifts its stance. Meanwhile, representatives of Indigenous people have called on the Director to listen to their concerns and drop Adani as a sponsor; teachers and educators have threatened a boycott and young people and scientists have repeatedly spoken out and protested inside the Museum.