An environmental campaign group has filed what it claimed as a “groundbreaking greenwashing complaint” with the US financial watchdog alleging oil giant Shell is misleading investors over its renewable energy investments.

Global Witness asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate the make-up of the supermajor’s Renewables and Energy Solutions reporting segment, which includes Shell’s various energy transition activities such as investments in wind and solar.

The campaign group says in a letter to the SEC: “Despite its title, a significant portion of Shell’s spending on Renewables and Energy Solutions appears to be directed towards the marketing and trading of ‘natural’ gas – a fossil fuel – and gas-generated power.

“Given that gas is neither renewable nor an energy solution, we ask the Commission, first, to investigate whether the activities included in the RES segment have been properly reported pursuant to relevant accounting standards.”

Global Witness goes on to cite its own calculations that Shell in its most recent annual reporting period “spent just 1.5% total capex on developing renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar”. It alleges that flies in the face of a 12% capex share claimed by Shell in 2021.

In light of that it wants the SEC to also probe “whether including gas in RES without reporting how much spending Shell directs to gas has caused Shell to omit material facts necessary to its investors’ clear understanding of Shell’s purported energy transition.

“In addition, we ask the commission to further examine whether Shell’s reported capex on [renewables] may include so much gas spending that labelling the segment Renewables and Energy Solutions constitutes a materially misleading misstatement.”

London-based Shell has a secondary share listing in New York.

A Shell spokesperson told Recharge: “Shell is confident that its financial disclosures are fully compliant with all SEC and other reporting requirements.”

The group has previously found itself embroiled with campaigners in the Netherlands, who in 2021 won a legal case over its emissions targets.

Unlike other European oil giants such as BP and TotalEnergies, Shell has not set specific gigawatt capacity targets for its energy transition activities.

The financial reporting of Renewables and Energy Solutions is not affected by an operational shake-up announced earlier this week by new CEO Wael Sawan, which included forming a new business unit for Downstream & Renewables under Huibert Vigeveno.