29 Jul 2021

Revealed: Science Museum signed gagging clause with exhibition sponsor Shell

Special Correspondent and Presenter

The Science Museum has signed a gagging clause in its agreement with Shell International to sponsor its climate change exhibition, agreeing to take care not to say anything that could damage the company’s reputation, Channel 4 News has learnt. 


This programme has exclusively obtained the sponsorship agreement which states the Science Museum and its trustees must take reasonable care “not at any time” during the exhibition 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”.

The oil giant controversially sponsored the museum’s major climate change ‘Our Future Planet’ exhibition which opened in May this year.

In emails seen by Channel 4 News, we can also reveal the Director of the Science Museum, also asked Shell to “champion” the exhibition to The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (a fossil fuel industry body) in an apparent bid to secure additional funding for the exhibition.

Ecologist Dr Emma Sayer, who contributed to the exhibition, told this programme she has asked for her name to be removed from the installations claiming she was shocked and disappointed by the Shell sponsorship and felt “embarrassed to be involved”.

Youth climate protesters say they do not want their climate change strike placards featured in the exhibition because it is “greenwashing” Shell. They also accuse the museum of being heavy-handed in calling the police to remove protesters from the building.

A Science Museum spokesperson told Channel 4 News that “energy companies need to play a big part” in the “transition to a low carbon economy” and that “we regard the blanket approach demanded by some campaigners of severing all relationships with energy companies as unproductive.”

A Shell spokesperson said: “We fully respect the museum’s independence. That’s why its exhibition on carbon capture matters and why we supported it. Debate and discussion – among anyone who sees it – are essential.”