When Denmark’s state vitality firm modified its identify in 2017, virtually everybody concerned agreed it was excessive time: in spite of everything, it was referred to as DONG Energy. (It initially stood for Danish Oil and Natural Gas.)
The revamp was additionally a part of a transfer to get out of the oil and gasoline enterprise and concentrate on offshore wind, the place the corporate has change into a world chief. But altering its identify to the hard-to-pronounce Ørsted, after one of many nation’s finest recognized scientists, turned out to not be the controversy-free alternative administration had envisioned.
Other vitality firms in Europe which have modified their names have confronted costs of “greenwashing,” or scrubbing their branding of fossil fuels whereas failing to do the identical to their portfolios. Ørsted (pronounced “Ehr-still”) side-stepped such allegations, however it nonetheless confronted opposition: from the Ørsted household itself.
On Friday, the vitality firm gained a court docket battle to maintain the Ørsted identify introduced by seven descendants of Hans Christian Ørsted, the scientist who found electromagnetism.
The members of the family filed the lawsuit in January 2018, objecting to their newfound affiliation with the corporate. They argued the Ørsted identify is uncommon and important sufficient to be off-limits.
The choose didn’t agree; it ought to be famous that about 1,200 individuals in Denmark now have Ørsted as a center or final identify—together with the pop star MØ. (Interestingly sufficient, the corporate bumped into an analogous—albeit much less litigious—downside when deciding on its earlier identify of DONG. In addition to snickers by English audio system, the Dong household of Valby, Denmark was not thrilled, although it by no means pursued authorized motion.)
Ørsted stands out for its authorized tiff, however on the planet of vitality, it’s only one extra firm altering its identify to eradicate phrases like “oil” or “gasoline.” Norway’s state vitality firm, as an illustration, modified its identify from Statoil to Equinor final yr. The firm says the change displays the nation’s shift away from petroleum extraction to renewable vitality, however it’s been accused of utilizing a rebranding effort to make itself seem extra “inexperienced” than it truly is.
And there are others: Finland’s Neste reduce the “oil” from “Neste Oil” in 2015, the identical yr France’s GDF Suez (GDF stood for “Gaz” or gasoline “de France”) modified its identify to Engie.
The transitions offered new, and infrequently extra “sustainable,” pictures—not unusual for vitality firms as a complete today. That was Ørsted’s official motive, too: the corporate has change into the world’s largest producer of offshore wind vitality. The Danish state has a 50.1% possession stake in Ørsted.
But embarrassment was one thing of an element too: “DONG,” whereas innocuous in Denmark, tends to have a distinct that means amongst English audio system.
Meanwhile, the controversy over the corporate’s new identify is just not essentially settled: Friday’s ruling in Ørsted vs. Ørsted may very well be appealed, the household’s lawyer, Jens Jakob Bugge, advised Fortune. If so, he mentioned, it may find yourself earlier than the Danish Supreme Court.
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