WASHINGTON, D.C., Jun 23 (OneWorld)
- On the eve of what is expected to be rancorous annual meeting of
angry shareholders, Royal Dutch/Shell is coming under strong attack by
environmental activists who charge that the oil giant is not living up
to its promises of environmental and social responsibility.
In a new report
released at the House of Commons in London Wednesday, Friends of the
Earth (FoE) and half a dozen other groups mostly from communities
around the world where Shell is pumping, transporting or refining oil
concludes that the company's claims that it is a model corporate
citizen are hollow.
currently under investigation for overstating its oil reserves, but
this report shows the company has for many years also been overstating
its social and environmental performance," said FoE's executive
director, Tony Juniper.
shareholders, however, the communities living next door to Shell have
little or no rights of redress. Many suffer ill health, pollution and
environmental damage as a result of Shell's pursuit of profits," he
'Behind the Shine,' covers eight specific cases where local communities
have organized to make Shell accountable for serious pollution and
related negative environmental, social, and health impacts.
communities include Durban, South Africa; Port Arthur, Texas; Manila,
the Philippines; Norco, Louisiana; the Niger Delta of Nigeria; Sao
Paulo, Brazil; the Caribbean island of Curacao; and Sakhalin Island in
the Bering Sea off the coast of Russian Siberia.
The report is
being released in advance of Shell's annual meeting that will be held
simultaneously next Monday in both London and The Hague.
are under heavy fire from shareholders, including major institutional
investors, as series of four reports that reduced the amount of oil
that the company though it had in reserve by nearly 4.5 billion barrels.
Institutional Investor Services (ISS) is advising its clients to vote
against two resolutions that would effectively absolve directors from
responsibility for the company's setbacks. If a large percentage of
shareholders vote against the two resolutions, it would amount to a
vote of no-confidence and could lead to an unprecedented shake-up in
one of the world's largest multinational corporations.
Shell has long
been under attack by environmental activists and, since the late 1990s,
has tried hard to project an image of environmental consciousness and
responsibility, particularly with respect to developing alternatives to
fossil fuels in the interests of reducing carbon emissions that cause
global warming. Indeed, just last week, the new chairman of its British
wing, Lord Ronald Oxburgh, told London's Guardian newspaper that he
sees "very little hope for the world" unless greenhouse gas emissions
environmental groups have generally lauded such statements, the FoE
report says that good environmental citizenship begins with taking
responsibility for the damages caused by pollution of the water, soil,
and air of communities around Shell's operations, as well as investing
more in renewable energy sources.
representatives from all of the local communities highlighted in the
new report intend to be present at next week's meeting to tell
shareholders, parliamentarians, and the interested public about the
problems they say Shell has caused and failed to adequately address.
In the Niger
Delta, for example, where Shell gets about ten percent of its oil, 700
million cubic feet of gas per day was burnt off into the environment
aid last year, an increase over the previous year, despite a company
commitment to end all flaring by 2008. Gas flaring, which is exists
throughout the Delta, not only wastes energy and contributes to global
warming, but also pollutes the environment.
Last year, nearly
10,000 barrels of oil spilled from pipelines that crisscross the
region, contaminating farmland, water courses, and fish, as they have
for many years, according to FoE.
practices in t he Niger Delta have destroyed our environment, our
farmland, and our fisheries," said Oronto Douglas, a representative of
FoE Nigeria, who will attend next week's meeting. "Shell must work with
local communities to clean up the Delta and make sure the communities
receive the benefits of their operations there."
Hilton Kelley, a
citizen of Port Arthur who will also be attending the meeting, said he
hopes to talk about the lawsuit that has been brought against Shell for
its operations there. Some 1,200 residents allege that air, soil and
other contamination caused by the release of "noxious fumes, vapors,
odors, and hazardous substances" from the local Motiva refinery have
affected the health of the community members.
expected Shell's practices to change after I spoke with (former
Chairman) Sir Philip Watts at the annual meeting in London last year,"
he said. "But the only thing that has changed is that Watts was fired.
Now, we will let the courts decide who is dumping what on our
is facing legal action in Manila where the company's oil depot is
located in the center of a residential community and in Sao Paulo where
it is accused of contaminating drinking water and causing serious
health problems, including cancers, infertility and respiratory
In Curacao, where
Shell sold its refinery to the government 17 years ago after 70 years
of operation, local residents are also seeking to hold Shell liable for
pollution that they say has damaged both the coral reef which surrounds
the island and the health of members of the community.
Norco, residents are demanding that Shell provide health care for years
of exposure to pollution caused by its refinery there. Margie Richard,
a local activist, won this year's Goldman Prize - the most prestigious
international award for environmentalists - for her efforts to hold
Shell accountable there.
local activists have been joined by a dozen major international green
groups in efforts to force Shell to halt a US$10 billion off-shore oil
and gas project that they say threatens to render extinct the Western
FoE is calling on
the British parliament to enact corporate-accountability legislation to
ensure that British-based companies can be held accountable by the
communities they work in. "It is time the British government legislated
and gave communities the right to protection from such corporate
abuse," said Juniper. "And they must be compensated when abuse occurs."
Originally posted at: http://us.oneworld.net/article/view/88717/1/