From documents and emails released following various Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, we’ve pieced together the twists and turns in the Science Museum Group’s (SMG) decision to sign a new sponsorship deal with Adani, including the ways in which the Director brushed off concerns raised in the Museum’s 12-page Due Diligence report on the Adani Group, how he advocated for Adani to his Board and forged ahead with negotiations, and how a workaround was found to distance the Museum from the controversies surrounding Adani’s impacts on people, the environment and the climate impacts of its coal business.
You can read through the timeline of events by scrolling down or click on the links below to jump to a specific section.
- Museum leadership offer Adani a ‘global profiling opportunity’
- Damning ‘Due Diligence’ report on Adani should have scuppered sponsorship
- Director disregards litany of controversies and forges ahead
- Blatchford brazenly backs Adani proposal to his Board despite its coal business
- Bending the Museum’s climate criteria for corporate sponsors
- Presenting a ‘fait accompli’ to the Board of Trustees?
- Museum undeterred by reputational risks at every turn
- After receiving ‘factsheet’ on Adani’s coal mining, Blatchford mounts defence on the BBC
12. Sponsorship launch at government summit gives Adani political boost
The Adani deal isn’t legitimate and should be dropped
1. Science Museum begins sponsorship negotiations with coal producer Adani
Despite having asked the SMG for various documents which would shed important light on how it first formed a relationship with the Adani Group, it remains unclear exactly how and when discussions came about. In an interview a year later on the BBC, Director Ian Blatchford claimed that:
‘In many ways it was actually initiated by us, because we have a number of connections in India…[it was] very much our initiative’
Several emails we have acquired clearly show that Director Ian Blatchford was a champion of a new sponsorship deal with the Adani Group from the outset, while a due diligence report compiled on Adani Green Energy in January 2021 recorded that the Museum had:
‘Entered senior stakeholder conversations following an introduction from [redacted]’.
It’s unclear who made that key introduction.The first clear reference to the Adani Group in the documents we do have comes in an email on 19 November 2020, which notes how Ian Blatchford asked colleagues to conduct ‘further research’ on the Adani Group at a meeting that day.
2. Museum leadership eagerly offer Adani a ‘global profiling opportunity’
Negotiations with the Adani Group were clearly a priority for the SMG. It appears that a meeting to discuss sponsorship opportunities with Gautam Adani himself had been arranged within a week of the Adani Group first being discussed at an internal SMG meeting with Blatchford. When a formal ‘due diligence’ report was then commissioned on 2 December, staff were asked to complete it within two weeks and told they may need to review their other requests for such reports in order to accommodate it, clearly signalling that this negotiation with Adani was a priority:
‘Please find attached a Due Diligence request for the Adani Group.
If this could be completed in the next 2 weeks that would be great. It might be a lengthy one as Adani Group has 6 companies within it and we unfortunately are not sure where the funding might come from at this stage.
Let me know if we need to review which DD’s have recently been requested to accommodate this. Also happy to jump on a call to give additional context if needed.‘
Undertaking these due diligence checks is an expectation set out both in the Museum’s own Ethics Policy, as well as by sector-wide bodies such as the Museums Association. However, it appears that the Museum’s leadership team saw these checks merely as a formality rather than a substantive process to be gone through. This is reflected in the fact that the same day that the report was commissioned, a member of the SMG’s leadership team emailed the Adani Group to say:
‘We believe the proposed [Energy Revolution] gallery is still the strongest global profiling opportunity for Adani’.
Even without due diligence checks having been made, the Museum’s leadership will have been aware of Adani’s involvement in large-scale coal production in India and Australia. And yet, the email continues, ‘We believe this [proposed sponsorship] most clearly aligns with the company’s ambitions and will therefore deliver the greatest benefit’ and enable Adani ‘to showcase its leadership in the energy transition’.
What these emails make clear is that negotiations with the Adani Group were well advanced before a due diligence report had even been commissioned. The Museum’s leadership were fully aware that they were selling Adani an opportunity to further its business plans and promote Adani’s misleading narrative that the company is leading the energy transition – while it increases its investments in coal production.
3. Damning ‘Due Diligence’ report on Adani should have scuppered sponsorship
When it came back, that due diligence report on the Adani Group was a 12-page rap sheet of wrongdoing by the company, detailing environmental damage, human rights violations, corruption and corporate criminality. However, there were several major areas of existing international concern, such as the impacts of Adani’s coal mining activities on Adivasi (Indigenous) communities in India and the massive climate impact of its coal operations, that were entirely overlooked. If the SMG followed the letter of its own Ethics Policy, then this huge amount of evidence of corporate wrongdoing and environmental damage should have been enough to scupper a sponsorship deal – even without the multiple issues that had been left out of the report.
With input from experts on Adani and highlighting the voices of those on the frontlines of its impacts, we’ve compiled a new analysis which shines a spotlight on what that Due Diligence Report revealed, the many other issues that were overlooked, and the major controversies surrounding Adani that have emerged since the report was put together. You can read it here.
4. Director disregards litany of controversies and forges ahead
What’s disturbing is that we know this damning report was seen at the highest level and that the Museum was well aware of the contentiousness of such a partnership. But there is little to no evidence that this had any impact on the decision-making process – and there’s no suggestion that the Director ever considered not moving forward.
In section 2.2 of the SMG’s Group Ethics Policy, the ‘Referral Process’ that should be followed if the due diligence process identifies concerns around a prospective new sponsor is set out:
‘The Prospect Research team within the Development Department conduct the research to the agreed format, checking resources accessible in the public domain.The report is reviewed by the Development Director in the first instance who will assess and decide if a referral to the SMG Director is necessary…’
Emails suggest that this is what happened in the case of Adani and that a member of staff, presumably the Development Director, referred the report and its contents to Ian Blatchford on 23 December in an email marked ‘High importance’. They wrote:
‘Hi Ian, I think you should read this. Can we discuss before we move forward?’
In response, the report is referred to as a “thorough and helpful piece of work” and discussed with the Director on the same day, but this does not appear to set back plans or trigger any pause for reflection. Instead, the conclusion of raising it with Blatchford is that:
‘We have taken note of the findings and are content to move ahead’.
But it gets worse. Emails disclosed by the museum reveal that just 32 minutes after Ian Blatchford was asked to read and then discuss that 12-page due diligence report, he personally emailed a representative of the Adani Group in order to move the negotiations forward:
‘Thank you for your kind email and I am delighted that the Adani Group is considering our proposal to associate with the Science Museum on this important new gallery that will attract a global audience of millions.’
5. Museum finds a workaround – to use the ‘Adani Green Energy’ brand
On 12 November 2021, Communications Director for the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and an “exhibition adviser” to the Science Museum Bob Ward published a bizarre piece on the Science Museum’s blog, pushing back against the outrage and disbelief at the Museum’s announcement that it had signed a new sponsorship deal with Adani. Core to his argument was that criticism from scientists, youth activists and Indigenous people was misguided, and based on the mistake of confusing ‘Adani Green Energy Ltd’ with other companies in the Adani Group – such as ‘Adani Mining’ – who are the ones actually responsible for the destructive Carmichael coal mine in Australia. Unlike these critics, Bob Ward and Ian Blatchford were the only ones with an accurate grasp of the situation, he argued. But analysis of the Science Museum’s correspondence strongly suggests that the decision to partner specifically with the ‘Adani Green Energy’ name was essentially a cosmetic exercise.
Firstly, the Adani Group actually defines itself as an ‘integrated business conglomerate’ with all of the companies sharing the same Registered Office in India. In fact, Adani Green Energy’s Chairman (who is also Gautam Adani himself), its Director, Executive Director and CEO, all sit on the Board of Directors of the Adani Group. Not even Adani seems to be under the illusion that these are distinct and separate business entities.
And the Museum’s relationship was a relationship with the Adani Group from the beginning: this is how the potential partnership is referred to in the majority of emails, and the formal negotiations take place with Adani Group representatives.
The first meeting on record, on 26 November 2020, is with Mr Gautam Adani himself: ‘Founder Chairman, Adani Group, and [redacted] Adani Group’. [Correspondence with Adani, p12] And, as noted earlier, the due diligence report commissioned on 2 December explicitly focused on the whole group of six companies with the warning that:
‘It might be a lengthy one as Adani Group has 6 companies within it and we unfortunately are not sure where the funding might come from at this stage.’
It had been clear at this stage that the six companies were part of one whole corporate entity. And as Ian Blatchford moved forward with negotiations on 23 December after receiving the damning due diligence report on the Adani Group, the subject and contents of his email are still focused on a proposal for the Adani Group to associate with the Museum. On 7 January, Blatchford then met with three other members of staff ‘to discuss next steps prior to speaking with Adani Group next week’.
In fact, Adani Green Energy was only mentioned for the first time in an internal email sent on 11 January 2021, which notes that:
‘Given that our proposal is to continue a conversation with Adani Green Energy, could you give further details on them?’
A new due diligence report on this division of the company was turned around on the same day, with most of its content simply recycled from the earlier report on the Adani Group, overlooking the controversy around land grabs, protests and court actions that continue to dog Adani Green to this day.
No information has been released on exactly how the proposal to now associate with Adani Green Energy came about – the relevant emails appear to be missing from those disclosed to us. However, a response to one of those undisclosed emails, from the Adani Group, sent on 4 January suggested that maybe this workaround might have already been put to them:
‘[redacted] and I discussed and we look forward to engaging and are comfortable to proceed on this basis’
Crucially, this lack of clarity by the Museum raises big questions about how the workaround was come up with, agreed and, troublingly, whether the Museum might not have fully complied with FOI requests in order to avoid being transparent about their motivations for making the change.
By the time the official launch of the sponsorship came around, it was abundantly clear that this had been a cosmetic exercise. In a series of emails sent the week before, there is confusion about the status of Adani Green Energy not just by the Museum but by staff at Adani Group itself. On 7 October 2021, the Science Museum requests so-called ‘boilerplate text’ on Adani Green Energy to include in its press release for the official announcement. Once again, it’s presented as an opportunity for the firm to promote its business to the media:
‘[I] wondered if I could ask you to provide me with a company boiler plate specifically on Adani Green Energy Limited in the meantime? […] this could be a great opportunity to highlight your work in renewables and some of Adani Green’s recent aquistions [sic] like the exciting news about SB Energy India.’
However, the more concerning emails come later on 14 October. After months of negotiations, emails and two due diligence reports, there is confusion as to whether Gautam Adani – Chairman and Founder of the Adani Group – can legally sign the contract as he does not have an official title in the Adani Green Energy subsidiary. In an email with the subject line ‘Quick question’, a member of SMG staff asks:
‘Just for our reference, in addition to being Chairman and Founder of Adani Group, does Mr Adani have an official title relating specifically to Adani Green Energy?’
Initially, they reply to say that he has no official title with the firm, although the formal signing ceremony was happening at the Science Museum in London just a few days later:
‘Chairman does not have any official title within Adani Green Energy currently. In case we need to include his name, we will have to do some additional formalities at our end to make it happen.’
But then, in a subsequent email, the Museum receives an update:
‘I’ve got some clarification on Chairman signing the contract. Chairman can sign the contract as Chairman of the Board of Adani Green Energy Limited.’
6. Blatchford brazenly backs Adani proposal to his Board despite its coal business
At the start of February, Blatchford did update the Board of Trustees about the proposed sponsorship deal ahead of their next meeting in March. But he opts to present only a partial picture of the negotiations with Adani to date and is noticeably vague about the issues the Due Diligence Report had identified.
In a 3-page paper dated 5 February, he tells the Board that ‘an opportunity arose over Christmas’ to redevelop the Museum’s existing climate science gallery ‘Atmosphere’ (which had been sponsored by the oil company Shell), omitting any mention of the prior negotiations with Adani. He also informs the trustees that ‘discussions with a potential sponsor have been moving at pace’.
While the Museum would later defend its sponsorship deal by arguing that Adani Green Energy is entirely separate from Adani’s coal mining business, here Blatchford makes no secret of the fact that Adani Group is a single corporate entity – and simply refers to Adani Green Energy as the ‘renewables division’. Blatchford openly acknowledges that:
‘The Adani Group embraces both old and new energy industries, including key coal interests in Australia at the Carmichael mine’.
But, even in this initial introduction to the Board, he is setting out Adani’s own narrative and arguments, which many would dispute:
‘Adani Green’s renewable business will be central to India’s drive to reduce its coal dependence very dramatically.’
In fact, Adani was pushing to open up new coal mines in the Hasdeo Forest and elsewhere in India at this time, as well as to make its Australian Carmichael mine operational and subsequently expand it.
Even though planning for the gallery is at a very early stage, Blatchford is noticeably specific about the proposed content, saying:
It’s striking how closely this narrative aligns with Adani’s own agenda and justifications. Blatchford has repeatedly argued that no sponsor has curatorial influence over the museum but here he makes a specific comment on gallery content very early in the development process – and while so clearly championing Adani’s narratives elsewhere. While his position on the gallery’s content could also be shaped by other factors, this comment does raise questions about the extent of his impartiality and his ability to shape the gallery’s framing in ways that could be favourable or advantageous to the sponsor.
Crucially, this 3-page paper would have been Blatchford’s opportunity to share the concerns that had been raised with him in the Due Diligence Report on the Adani Group. As the SMG’s Group Ethics Policy sets out, ‘if the SMG Director has concerns’ after the Development Director has referred a Due Diligence Report to him, the Director will then refer it to the Board of Trustees’:
‘For reports referred to the Board of Trustees any final decision as to what further actions shall be taken with regards to such a matter shall be at the sole discretion of the Board of Trustees, who shall have due regard to this policy in arriving at such decision.’
But in his paper, Blatchford merely informs Trustees that:
‘We have already conducted normal due diligence work but continue to look at Adani’s forward renewable plans to assure ourselves on these points’.
However, he does not communicate to the Trustees the full extent and scale of that due diligence work and the damning report on the Adani Group that it resulted in. The Science Museum has since confirmed that:
“The Due Diligence report on Adani Group dated December 2020 was not shared with the Board of Trustees as no partnership was ever proposed for a corporate sponsorship specifically with ‘the Adani Group’. The findings of the Due Diligence report on Adani Green Energy dated January 2021 were shared in writing with the Board of Trustees in February 2021.”FOI Response from SMG, January 2023
The rest of the paper is then redacted and other key sections of text throughout the document have been blacked out, raising concerns about what the Director went on to say and that the SMG is now keeping out of the public domain. Minutes of the Board of Trustees Meeting on the 3rd March would later note just that:
‘Due diligence work in the context of the Transition Pathway Initiative would continue.’
7. Bending the Museum’s climate criteria for corporate sponsors
Back in November 2020 as negotiations were getting underway with the Adani Group, the SMG announced with a fanfare that it had developed a brand new Sustainability Policy and, as part of this, that it would be ‘the first cultural institution to join the ‘Transition Pathway Initiative’ (TPI), an organisation set up by investors that assesses ‘companies’ preparedness for the transition to a low-carbon economy’. The SMG said that it would now use the TPI’s ‘Management Quality Index’ tool in order to assess its own partners or potential partners and would be ‘encouraging them to work towards level three or better on the TPI [index].’
It’s interesting to note that, at the same time as making this announcement, the SMG actually ended negotiations on another proposed sponsorship deal – this time with the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative. The reason? One of the twelve member companies – Saudi Aramco – had only reached level two in the latest TPI assessment. Otherwise – and quite astonishingly – Ian Blatchford had felt comfortable courting this consortium of twelve oil and gas company CEOs, including BP, Shell, Equinor, ExxonMobil and Total.
Less than a month later, that damning due diligence report on the Adani Group highlighted only one of the six companies that form the Adani Group – Adani Enterprises – had been rated in the TPI index and that it had only been scored at level one.
In his paper to the Board of Trustees, Blatchford highlighted this fact and that that score was ‘below our normal threshold‘ and that Adani Green Energy, ‘the renewables division’ as he referred to it, has not been rated. For that reason, he tells the Board:
‘We are making a judgement call as to their commitment to the energy transition and the company they can become.’
Given the evidence that is out there on the impacts of Adani, the Director of the SMG should be adopting – to use his own words when announcing the SMG’s new Sustainability Policy in November 2020 – ‘a data-led approach’ rather than inviting the Board to back him in making a judgement call about how a company might change in the future. It seems that the low score that had been given to Adani Enterprises – which is assigned for merely ‘acknowledging Climate Change as a Business Issue’ – as well as the absence of scores for other divisions of the Adani Group, was no barrier to pushing ahead with negotiations.
This ad hoc application of TPI scores to the Adani Group is problematic and incoherent. For example, the ‘Science Based Targets Initiative’ is an independent organisation which scrutinises corporate targets for reducing emissions, and its stance is that ‘It is recommended that companies submit targets only at the parent or group level, not at the subsidiary level’. Others adopt this same approach. To put it another way, you can’t treat one part of a conglomerate as independent from the rest.
Crucially, the TPI tool just simply isn’t an effective way of assessing a sponsor’s suitability or its commitment to climate action because it is a tool designed for investors that assesses whether companies are thinking about climate risk, publishing data or setting targets – but not whether they are actually delivering on those targets. And it doesn’t actually score them on whether their business plans are in line with Paris Climate Agreement targets.
8. Presenting a ‘fait accompli’ to the Board of Trustees?
While Blatchford’s paper shared with the Board on 5 February proactively paints Adani in a favourable light, it does at least offer an opportunity for feedback and discussion by the trustees, allowing them to fulfil their legal duty to protect the museum’s reputation. However, when we put that paper into context, the proposal put to the Board appears to be more of a ‘fait accompli’ by Blatchford.
We already know that by this point negotiations had been pushed forward and the concerns raised in the due diligence report had been quickly dismissed. What other documents reveal is that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Adani was already drafted and being discussed with the company during January, well before the proposal was brought to the Board.
On the same day that the paper on the proposed Adani deal was circulated to trustees, the Museum sent an appendix to the MOU over to Adani and then chased for it to be signed. [See Correspondence binder, p.38] By 1 March it appears to be all but finalised with the Museum sending Adani a copy with ‘a few final suggestions’. [See p.47].
The Trustees meeting – when Blatchford’s paper could be discussed in-person for the first time – takes place two days later on 3 March. In the minutes of the meeting, it records that:
‘The Board noted the update on a sponsorship Memorandum of Understanding for the Energy Revolution Gallery, and the wider context in terms of energy policy and international strategy. It also noted that due diligence work in the context of the Transition Pathway Initiative would continue.’
The following day, Adani confirmed the Museum’s final suggestions on the MOU [FOI response to Alex Penson, Correspondence with the Adani Group, 17 November 2021, Correspondence binder, p46]. However, there is no evidence that the Board meeting had any bearing on the approval process. This is deeply troubling given what we know now: that several trustees did have misgivings about the sponsorship deal and had voiced them. Blatchford, though, misleadingly claimed in a blog published on 19 October 2021 that they supported his stance:
‘Trustees of the Science Museum Group are not convinced by the argument from some who say we should sever all ties with organisations that are ‘tainted’ by association, direct or indirect, with fossil fuels. We believe the right approach is to engage, debate and challenge companies, governments and individuals to do more to make the global economy less carbon intensive.’
Back in 2020, Blatchford had also set out in a blog how the SMG’s Executive team and the Board of Trustees continue to regularly review the subject of the Museum’s sponsorship by fossil fuel companies, and that ‘the clear view’ has been that severing these would be ‘unwise’.
In fact, when news of the Adani sponsorship emerged, writer and historian Sarah Dry tweeted that when she was on the Board of Trustees she had argued against accepting sponsorship from Adani:
And when mathematician Hannah Fry announced her resignation from the Board of Trustees over the Adani sponsorship and, in particular, the way some at the SMG had dismissed those raising legitimate concerns, she tweeted that she had already made her opposition known in other ways:
The Charities Commission notes in its guidance to trustees:
‘No one should be able to direct the trustees or drive decisions through without sufficient consideration… If you strongly disagree with your [fellow] trustees’ decision, you can ask for your disagreement to be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.’
Despite this opposition, the deal went ahead – both the Museum and Adani signed the MOU by 15 March 2021, with a member of staff from Adani saying they ‘look forward to a long and great partnership’.
To which the Science Museum responds:
9. Museum undeterred by reputational risks at every turn
The SMG’s own Group Ethics Policy says that it:
‘Will not seek or accept donations, sponsorship or grants where acceptance of these funds would damage its effective operation, including… Material damage to the reputation, independence or integrity of SMG’.
In the case of Adani, reputational risks have been dismissed and disregarded at every turn, from the catalogue of concerns in the initial due diligence report on Adani Group to the concerns raised by the SMG’s own trustees.
And it didn’t stop there. Following the signing of the MOU in March 2021, monthly progress reports have been put together on the development of the new gallery. In each monthly report, the reputational risk of the sponsor was flagged at the ‘Amber’ level, both for the likelihood that the risk would occur and the severity of the impact that it could have. It was the only identified risk consistently rated at this higher level. Some six months after the MOU had been signed, little had changed. A presentation giving an overview of the Gallery included the three main risks confronting the project and ‘Positive impact of project is reduced by negative reactions to sponsor’ was one of the three. Bizarrely, it states that the due diligence report on Adani – twelve pages full of controversy and wrongdoing which was then disregarded by the Director – was apparently a step towards mitigating these reputational risks.
As might have reasonably been expected, the sponsorship deal has already caused material damage to the SMG’s reputation, and before the Gallery has even opened: two trustees have resigned, contributors are refusing to work with the Museum, Indigenous people have called out the Director’s defence of Adani, several protests have occurred including overnight occupations and all of this has been widely covered by the mainstream media. On top of that, the SMG’s Risk Register in February this year ranked the risk and impact of “Adverse publicity and protest” at level 4. These are all things the Director could have taken steps to mitigate or even avoid.
We have to wonder what the value of the SMG’s Ethics Policy is if it’s not enforced, and the due diligence report it requires is not acted upon.
10. After receiving ‘factsheet’ on Adani’s coal mining, Blatchford mounts defence on the BBC
In March 2021, the Museum’s due diligence report on Adani had been compiled and then brushed off by Blatchford, and the MOU had been drafted, signed and likely shared with the Board of Trustees. Following that Board of Trustees meeting in March 2021, a member of SMG staff emailed Adani:
Following that call, the Adani Group sent over a detailed factsheet on 2 April from their Australian communications team:
Asking a prospective sponsor about areas of concern would be good practice if it had taken place at the early stages of the negotiations. But this email makes clear that Adani’s offer to arrange discussions with their head of communications or to hold a joint call was about coordinating on how legitimate criticism of Adani’s business might be deflected or defended against. It seems that the SMG’s response to the catalogue of concerns about Adani’s Carmichael Mine in its Due Diligence Report was not to investigate the issues further, by researching a range of sources, but to simply ask for Adani’s own talking points on the issue.
Adani has recently revealed that its ambitions to ramp up coal production in Australia are actually much higher than it had set out in that factsheet. That document described Carmichael as a 10 million tonne pa mine but Adani now plans to increase coal shipments through the Great Barrier Reef and is trying to achieve 15 million tonnes of coal exported next year, which ‘may touch 25 million tonnes to 30 million in the next 2-3 years’ time.’ This would make Carmichael the biggest coal mine in Australia.
After the sponsorship deal was announced in October, a huge backlash unfolded and, as a result, Director Ian Blatchford was invited to appear on the arts programme Front Row on BBC Radio 4. He proceeded to mount a defence of his stance on fossil fuel sponsorship and, perhaps unsurprisingly, of the Adani Group’s business and its Carmichael coal mine in particular. Host Samira Ahmed asked Blatchford to respond to comments made by Adrian Burragubba, a Traditional Owner of land who has been targeted by Adani in Australia, that ‘by putting this company on a pedestal, the Science Museum is complicit in Adani’s violation of our Human Rights and destruction of our ancestral lands’. Instead of acknowledging his concerns, Blatchford staunchly defended Adani’s coal business by dismissing Burragubba’s comments, questioning their validity and suggesting that they were exaggerated:
‘Well, Adani and their coal interests in Australia do get accused of a whole variety of things but the company would push back very strongly on those accusations… So, although you’re quoting one voice, I would not say that that is a definitive intervention on the issue, because we’ve thought about two things: not only [Adani’s] response to that and the truth of it – and there is certainly a great tendency for some campaigners to exaggerate very significantly those issues – but also we’re looking at other voices.’
Despite Blatchford’s claim, it appears that the only ‘other voice’ he had considered on the issue was Adani’s own. Also, Blatchford readily dismissed Burragubba’s comments despite the fact that he had been specifically named in the SMG’s Due Diligence Report on the Adani Group as a key figure: ‘the leader [of] the anti-Adani faction of the mine site’s traditional owners, the Wangan and Jagalingou.’ The report also highlighted how Adani’s lawyers had used an ‘attack dog’ strategy to bankrupt Burragubba in an attempt to quell opposition and that the law firm had subsequently been described in the media as bringing the legal profession into disrepute. Blatchford had been made aware of these facts in December 2020.
You can view the full factsheet here.
11. A clear clash between Gallery content and its coal producing sponsor
When the SMG has been challenged over its decision to accept sponsorship from major fossil fuel producing companies and, in particular, a major producer of coal, it often deflects by saying that there is no issue because such corporate sponsors have no influence over curatorial decisions or content, that the Museum ‘asserts full editorial control’. However, this comes into conflict with the Director’s own claim during an interview on the BBC that the SMG had actively sought sponsorship from Adani because:
‘We knew we needed to find a new funder that would give us an interesting dimension [on the new climate gallery, and] particularly help us on the energy question.’
What help – beyond providing funding – had the Museum been seeking from Adani? And if the Director had been seeking a sponsor that would give the Museum an interesting dimension to the new gallery, that would be an explicit blurring of the lines between Adani’s corporate agenda and the Museum’s mission, ‘to make sense of the science which shapes our lives, help create a scientifically literate society and inspire the next generation’.
Despite the claims of the Museum’s Director and Chair, no-one has actually claimed that Adani is actively attempting to influence or directly intervene in curatorial decisions. But what the SMG has done is sign up to a non-disparagement clause in its contract with Adani, akin to the one it signed with Shell last year when it sponsored the Museum’s ‘Our Future Planet’ exhibition on climate solutions. For both Shell and Adani, the SMG has committed to:
‘Take reasonable care not at any time during the term to make any statement or issue any publicity or otherwise be involved in any conduct or matter that may reasonably be foreseen as discrediting or damaging the goodwill or reputation of the sponsor.’
Can the Museum really claim to have editorial independence when it has signed up to such a clause? Censorship rarely takes the form of an ominous letter handed down with orders from the sponsor. In reality, it emerges more subtly through a ‘chilling effect’ on decision-making and a desire not to ‘bite the hand that feeds you’. It’s exactly this kind of clause that creates the conditions for such insidious self-censorship.
The real issue though is that there is a fundamental mismatch between the content of the new Gallery and the sponsor that the SMG has chosen for it. Just as Shell has a controversial record and clear business agenda when it comes to the ‘climate solutions’ on display in the Our Future Planet exhibition, Adani has a dire record as a major coal producer and a clear agenda when it comes to the narrative surrounding the ‘energy transition’ and, particularly, the role of companies such as itself in it. The new gallery will be called Energy Revolution: The Adani Green Energy Gallery. But let’s be clear, there is nothing revolutionary about increasing your investments in coal.
In response to FOI requests, the SMG disclosed a presentation on the Gallery’s proposed content, which sets out what the key messages will be:
The clash between Adani’s business practices and these aims is already clear to see but the Museum’s own cognitive dissonance goes further. In laying out the context for the Gallery, the presentation included this powerful quotation from The Future we Choose (2020), a book by Former UN Executive Secretary for Climate Change Christiana Figueres, and Tom Rivett-Carnac, a senior political strategist for the Paris Climate Agreement:
‘…Even at this late hour we still have a choice about our future, and therefore every action we take from this moment forward counts… Future generations will most likely look back at this moment as the single most significant turning point for action.’
Back in 2017, Christiana Figueres had directly campaigned against a US $680 million loan being granted to Gautam Adani in order to construct a railway from the Carmichael Mine in rural Australia to a port on the Great Barrier Reef which would aid the export of the coal produced. Figueres was to the point:
‘Given my background and deep concern for planetary well-being, I cannot in all good conscience remain silent on an issue that threatens to unpick the progress represented by the Paris Agreement.’
When the architect of the Paris Climate Agreement has spoken out against one of your sponsor’s flagship projects, you clearly need to be thinking again.
Of course, the cynical twist is that, like the Museum’s other fossil fuel sponsorship deals, the new Gallery is intended to directly engage with secondary school pupils in key stages 3 and 4.
Just like Equinor’s sponsorship of the Museum’s interactive Wonderlab Gallery for children, this sponsorship will also aid Adani in shaping the perception of its business and brand among young people.
12. Sponsorship launch at government summit gives Adani political boost
What’s particularly troubling about the Adani sponsorship and the timing of its announcement is that it so clearly plays into the company’s corporate agenda, both by helping Adani to present itself as a company that is leading the energy transition (while paradoxically ramping up its investments in coal production) and to strengthen its links to policy makers in the UK. The timing of the announcement therefore represented a “double-whammy” for Adani, taking place during the UK government’s ‘Global Investment Summit’, hosted at the Science Museum, and in the week before the COP26 Climate Summit. This meant that when Gautam Adani sat down with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it would be against the backdrop of Adani’s “philanthropy” at a major national museum and not the ways in which Adani’s coal investments are at odds with UK government policy on climate change – just two weeks later at the close of COP26, Boris Johnson would say that a ‘game-changing agreement’ had been reached which sounds ‘the death knell for coal power’.
However, fast-forward six months and Boris Johnson would be hosted by Gautam Adani at the company’s HQ in Gujarat during an official visit to India. On Twitter, Adani boasted that he was:
‘Delighted to support climate & sustainability agenda with focus on renewables’
And, concerningly, that Adani:
‘Will also work with UK companies to co-create defence & aerospace technologies’
With new ties and collaborations between the UK government and Adani emerging, has the company’s sponsorship of Science Museum Group actually been a key stepping stone and a way to secure new business deals? Had the Science Museum’s Director not only signed his own deal to promote a major polluter but also helped it to broker new business deals with the UK government? If so, Adani’s sponsorship of the Science Museum goes far beyond a branding exercise.
Conclusion: the Adani deal isn’t legitimate and should be dropped
Today, the Science Museum has already begun the process of transforming its climate science gallery ‘Atmosphere’ into the new ‘Energy Revolution: Adani Green Energy Gallery’, set to open in November 2023. But, as these documents and due diligence reports have revealed, the decision to make Adani the title sponsor of the gallery is not a legitimate one.
- When the Science Museum undertook due diligence on Adani it found a catalogue of concerns about the company’s conduct that should have scuppered the sponsorship.
- While those controversies were referred directly to the Director, he failed to act upon them and, it appears, to properly inform or brief the Board of Trustees on the scale and extent of those concerns.
- Following this misstep, repeated flagging of the reputational risks of partnering with Adani were then also dismissed and ignored
The decision to sign a sponsorship deal with Adani clearly breaches the principles set out in the Museum’s own Ethics Policy, which says that the Museum: ‘Will not seek or accept donations, sponsorship or grants where acceptance of these funds would damage its effective operation, including… Material damage to the reputation, independence or integrity of SMG.’
The scale of the due diligence report on Adani was a clear and undeniable signal that accepting sponsorship from Adani would cause material damage to the Museum’s reputation and operation. This is exactly what has happened.
- Two trustees have resigned from the Board
- Many contributors have refused to work with the museum again until it shifts its stance
- Representatives of Indigenous people have called on the Director to listen to their concerns and drop Adani as a sponsor
- Young people and scientists have repeatedly spoken out and protested
The Science Museum should now:
- Undertake a formal review of its sponsorship agreement with Adani in light of the opposition it has triggered
- Allocate funds in the short-term to continue with the development of the Gallery and safeguarding any jobs associated with it
- Identify a new funding source, whether that is from funds already secured or a new sponsor that is more ethically aligned to the Gallery’s aims than a coal-producing conglomerate.
In 2019, the Royal Shakespeare Company ended its sponsorship deal with BP early, saying that, ‘Young people are now saying clearly to us that the BP sponsorship is putting a barrier between them and their wish to engage with the RSC. We cannot ignore that message.’ Young people, scientists and Indigenous people have sent a clear message to the Science Museum. It should follow in the RSC’s footsteps and end its association with Adani before the new gallery opens.
Links to FOI Source Documents
Adani group due diligence and related communications
- Correspondence.pdf: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/foi-response-smg-2021-12-correspondence-with-adani-to-8jan2021.pdf
- Due diligence correspondence.pdf: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/foi-response-smg-2021-12-adani-due-diligence-correspondence.pdf
- Adani Group due diligence: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/foi-response-smg-2020-12-15-adani-group-due-diligence.pdf
Due diligence reports, correspondence and factsheet on the Carmichael Mine
Also available at: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/correspondence_with_adani_group#incoming-1990782
- Adani Group Due Diligence Report: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/foi-response-smg-2020-12-15-adani-group-due-diligence.pdf
- Adani Green Energy Ltd. Due Diligence Report: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2021/11/adani-green-energy-due-diligence.pdf
- Correspondence Binder: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/foi-response-smg-2021-11-22-smg-adani-correspondence-since-2022-10-19.pdf
- Carmichael Mine Factsheet: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/foi-response-smg-2021-carmichael-mine-factsheet.pdf
Science Museum Group Risk Register
Science Museum Director correspondence with Adani Group, October 2021-January 2022
Correspondence relating to Adani Group Due Diligence Report and the decision to accept sponsorship from Adani
- Due Diligence correspondence: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/foi-response-smg-2021-12-adani-due-diligence-correspondence.pdf
- Atmosphere Gallery paper: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/foi-response-smg-2021-02-05-atmosphere-gallery-paper.pdf
Energy Revolution Gallery planning
- Atmosphere Gallery paper: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/foi-response-smg-2021-02-05-atmosphere-gallery-paper.pdf
- Monthly reports binder on development of Energy Revolution Gallery: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/foi-response-smg-energy-revolution-adani-monthly-reports-binder.pdf
- Meetings binder: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/foi-response-smg-energy-revolution-adani-meetings-binder.pdf
FOI on correspondence with Adani and sponsorship agreement with Adani Green
- Correspondence binder: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2021/11/correspondence-binder.pdf
- Sponsorship agreement with Adani Green Energy: https://cultureunstained.files.wordpress.com/2021/11/sponsorship-agreement-adani-green-energy-limited-x-science-museum.pdf