Greenpeace has labelled NZ Rugby's decision to partner with new sponsors INEOS as "gutting".
On Wednesday, NZR announced a six-year deal with the petroleum giant for their logo to appear on their shorts and training kit of its teams - the All Blacks, Black Ferns, Sevens, NZ U20 and NZ Māori.
The Kiwi environmental watchdog has been vocal in its opposition to the deal since speculation of INEOS - one of the largest manufacturers of chemicals and oil products - and NZR's partnership began in June, starting a petition against it, which has now surpassed 15,000 names.
Greenpeace has claimed INEOS' investment in sport is merely a smoke screen for "driving us deeper into the climate crisis" with its continual use of small plastic pellets, which pollute waterways and harm wildlife. The British company has also recently opposed a ground-breaking new proposal to regulate toxic and persistent chemicals in microplastics.
"In the thick of the climate crisis, it’s gutting to see NZ Rugby sign a sponsorship deal with an oil and gas polluting conglomerate like INEOS that is responsible for driving us deeper into the climate crisis, and fouling the oceans with plastic pollution," says Greenpeace campaigner Juressa Lee.
"Just in the past weeks we’ve seen deadly flooding and fires driven by climate change and it’s just a taste of what the climate crisis has in store, especially for our coastal Māori and Pacific communities.
"Many of our rugby players are of Māori and Pacific descent, and come from communities which are on the frontline of sea level rise and extreme storm events. They shouldn't be expected to wear the brand of a climate polluter like INEOS."
NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson insists they've done their "due diligence" and are happy with their decision.
"We know that rugby in this country attracts a lot of scrutiny and any major decision we make comes with a fair degree of accountability as well," Robinson says.
"So, we expect that, we welcome it, we think it's healthy for the game and for discussions within New Zealand and certainly we're really comfortable with the due diligence we've done."
INEOS is a significant investor across a range of sports, including Formula One, cycling, European football, and America's Cup sailing, lending its name to the INEOS Team UK challenge in Auckland earlier this year.
"Oil companies like INEOS know that their time has come and that the world is turning away from fossil fuels and plastic. They are desperate to associate themselves with popular brands like the All Blacks and with New Zealand’s good name - but we shouldn’t let them get away with it," Lee continues.
NZR is still on the hunt for a new major sponsor for the front of their teams' jerseys, with their deal with US insurance giant AIG set to expire at the end of this season.