WHEN Coldplay signed up to a partnership with Finnish sustainable aviation fuel company, Neste, as part of a bid to halve the emissions of their tour, they may have thought they were doing their bit for the planet, but Carlos Calvo Ambel didn’t think so. The director of the Transport and Environment Campaign branded them “useful idiots for greenwashing”.

Idiots? The band seem to be trying harder than most (millionaire rock groups).

But are they managing to swerve the greenwash? What Calvo Ambel is drawing attention to is the blots on Neste’s green record, the fact that, according to a study by Friends of the Earth, its palm oil suppliers cleared at least 10,000 hectares of forest between 2019 and 2020. “Neste,” he said, “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.”

Surely sustainable aviation fuel is a good thing?

Not if it involves chopping down swathes of forest.

What was the band’s response?

They said: “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. 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..”

What about Neste?

A spokeswoman for the company said, “[Neste] do not accept any sustainability violations in our own operations. 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 0% of its global renewable raw material inputs by the end of 2023.”

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Could it be that Coldplay are trying to greenwash themselves, and simultaneously greenwashing other companies?

You could say that, and be cynical about the band’s attempt to offset their emissions. But they have also been genuinely trying to make the tour more sustainable, not just through this flight fuel but by using rechargeable electric vehicle batteries to power the shows. At least they are trying!

I suppose all of us (though particularly millionaire rockstars) should be alert to being useful idiots.

Yes, though the bigger idiots are those who, out of fear of greenwash, never attempt to reduce emissions at all.