Pro-golfer Leona Maguire entered a two-year sponsorship partnership with Kingspan in June of 2019. One and a half years later, eight Kingspan managers testified in the U.K. Government Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire and the revelations about its approach to fire testing and certification became public. Grenfell bereaved and survivors have led silent marches every six months, most recently on the five year anniversary of the fire in June 2022, which drew 18,000 people in London. Yet the partnership between Maguire and Kingspan has continued beyond the initial two year term. By wearing the Kingspan logo, Maguire is promoting a company that kept failed fire tests on its insulation product secret for years while marketing it.
On June 14, 2017, 72 people, primarily people of color and immigrant families, were killed in the 24-story Grenfell Tower Fire. Because of the contribution of the cladding and insulation to the rapid spread of the Grenfell fire, Kingspan managers were called to testify in 2020-2021, and thousands of pages of company communications were made public as evidence during the U.K. Government’s Inquiry into the causes of the fire. This evidence revealed that, for years, Kingspan issued misleading marketing literature and advice to use Kooltherm K15 insulation boards in configurations for which it was never tested, and, in some cases, for which it had failed large-scale fire tests. Five percent of the insulation in the tower was K15. Inquiry evidence revealed internal communications by managers and marketing team members joking about the testing failures, mismarketing, and fire risk.
Controversy emerged after Kingspan announced a partnership with the Mercedes Formula One Team on December 1, 2021. One week later, Mercedes announced that it was ending that partnership immediately. Amid backlash from the survivors and bereaved of the fire victims, Member of Parliament and then Secretary of State Michael Gove (Conservative Party) also called on Mercedes to reconsider the commercial partnership, which he said, “threatens to undermine all the good work the company and sport have done.” Gove also called on Ulster Rugby to drop Kingspan, writing to the team’s chief executive:
You will have seen that the Mercedes-AMG F1 team has recently decided to end a commercial partnership with Kingspan, having met with survivors of the fire and the families of those who lost their lives and been made aware of the grave hurt and distress caused by the sponsorship deal… I do not believe that the public across these islands will feel that it is right that a community club should risk its reputation by partnering with a company whose practices have been so seriously called into question.
Maguire should follow the lead of Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 team by ending her partnership with Kingspan.
Thousands of housing units in the United Kingdom are now caught in a “cladding crisis” because combustible products, including Kingspan’s, were mis-marketed and installed in buildings for which they had not passed appropriate tests or for which misleading certifications were used. Please read our report to learn what emerged regarding Kingspan’s U.K. insulation business’ approach to fire testing, certification, and marketing from 2006 to 2020.
Kingspan Group sold $1.2 billion in the Americas in 2021. It markets its products under several brand names in the United States.
SMART members include the skilled workforce that manufactures and installs building envelope products, ventilation and HVAC systems throughout the United States and Canada, as well as the specialists who perform fire and life safety testing on buildings. SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, is one of North America’s most dynamic and diverse unions with over 200,000 members.