”False Promises”: A study of Shell’s Corporate Social

”False Promises”: A study of Shell’s Corporate Social
Responsibility of Oil and gas in Nigeria.





The purpose of this Chapter is to locate the Nigerian case
study with respect to a wider series of environmental and social controversies
that Shell faced during the last few decades. It discusses the emergence of a
CSR agenda at Shell that it situates within the context of environmental
regulation debates and the rise of environmentalism and the environmental
justice movement over the last 3 decades. The chapter reviews in brief some of
the high profile incidents and resource conflicts that implicated Shell and
prompted widespread anti-Shell protests which have attracted so much adverse
publicity against the company both in the West and in developing countries,
particularly Nigeria. It argues that, as a direct consequence of recurrent
corporate-society incidents, Shell responded with an ambitious CSR agenda that
aimed to restore its credibility and legitimacy amongst global and local
stakeholders. Yet it has refused to take it responsibility in  some case most especially the case of Niger


The context for the rise of corporate environmentalism

 Several drivers have
played a role in the emergence of CSR, as corporate and societal 129
relationships have evolved to encompass a wide range of social responsibilities
over and above the legal and economic responsibilities of a business
enterprise. Such drivers include the increasing power of corporations, the
negative impacts of corporate activities, the globalisation process and
regulatory pressures. However, by mobilising and focusing public pressure upon
industry and individual corporations, different major currents of thought have
played determining roles in forcing industry to accept the CSR agenda .The next
sections outline two such key movements, and highlights how they are linked
with the emergence of CSR in its modem form. S. 2.1

 The rise of
environmental movement .

The ecological crisis in modem society is a well-established
topic in academic and policy debates (Yearley, 1992). The rise of environmental
politics in the 1960s was largely driven by environmental movements and a
resurgent global civil society. According to Jamison (1996), the movement
focussed on creating awareness throughout the 1960s. For example, the
publication of Rachel Carlson’s Silent Spring (1962), Paul Ehrlich’s The
Population Bomb (1968) and Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons (1968)
called public attention to the issue, and popularised the idea of ecological
limits. This period also saw the establishment of environmental NGOs focusing
on the protection of the environment such the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF)
and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In the
1970s, the environmental movement became established as a political issue and
entered the phase of organisation and institutionalisation (Jamison, 1996). For
example, one of the 130 outcomes is the implementation of the United Nations
Environmental Programme (UNEP) after the Stockholm conference, and the creation
of the transnational environmental group Greenpeace. There was also a
proliferation of alternative holistic visions of the nature-society
relationship, such as Goldsmith’s Blueprint fo r Survival (1972). This was
underpinned by the growing recognition of the Limits to Growth (Meadows et al.,
1972). In the early 1970s, the oil crisis became a turning point in the history
of environmental movement (Murphy and Bendell, 1997). The ecological limits
turned into a permanent topic of public debate, which was shrouded in political
disputes over possible remedies, especially as the oil crisis hit Western
economies. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the environmental movement entered a
phase of professionalisation. For example, Greenpeace and other environmental
NGOs focused on lobbying and grew in capacity and reach. They also gained more
momentum through the publication of the Brundtland Report (WCED, 1987), which
established the concept of sustainable development and thereby sought to
reconcile the antagonism between growth and environmental protection. However,
critics of environmentalism (Martinez-Alier, 2002; Rowell, 1994; Szasz, 1994;
Bowen, William, 2002) point out that it exclusively privileged a conservation
and preservation ethic – where nature was seen as a beautiful wilderness to be
protected from man – while neglecting the human dimension. Critical voices were
later channelled through the environmental justice movement . The environmental
justice movement has shifted environmental priorities away from what is
perceived as a traditional emphasis on eco-centric themes (global warming,
ozone depletion, nature protection), towards human-centred concerns for
individual health, pesticide control, community protection, etc.).

“Environmental and human rights have no boundaries, because
pollution has no boundaries… Environmental justice organisations are starting
to understand that that they are working in a global context…Communities all
over the world are finding commonalities in their experiences and goals in
seeking environmental justice4″(Environews, 2007, p. 501).


Shell scandals and
the rise of environmentalism at Shell

There  have been
successions of major incidents involving Shell that gradually undermined the
company’s reputation and led to widespread civil society protests around the
world, and those new forms of collaboration between the civil societies in
developed and developing countries that further threatened the company’s
reputation and legitimacy. This parts also contain a brief discussion about Shell
scandal in Niger Delta and the rise of the Ogoni movement .


Shell also has a refinery located in Diamond, a small town
located in Louisiana, situated along the shores of the Mississippi River. The
community faced highly risky exposure to poisonous gas from pollution, and was
a regular victim of recurrent explosions that killed a lot of people and
inflicted extensive damages to property belonging to fence line communities.
The first explosion happened in 1973 and took the lives of two Diamond

Another major explosion occurred on May 5th 1988 and killed
six people, and injured 42 people (Lemer, 2005). The blast shattered windows up
to 30 miles away and damage was sustained on both sides of the mile-wide
Mississippi river. Following the incident about 159 million pounds of toxic
chemicals were spewed into the air, requiring the evacuation of 4,500 people.
Diamond residents faced recurrent emergencies that forced them to evacuate
their homes eight times in 12 years. Shell was later forced to pay out $172
million in damages to some 17,000 claimants (Ibid.).

In the 1990s Shell faced a full-scale environmental protest
concerning the disposal of its Brent Spa, an oil storage and tanker loading
buoy in the Brent oilfield, operated by Shell UK in the North Sea. Although the
rig was located in the UK, and the issue was a domestic problem from a UK point
of view, it was internationalised, with the involvement of environmental
campaign organisations such as Greenpeace, and quickly became a symbol of
crossborder importance despite the fact that it was

located in UK waters and subject 143 to clearly defined
national regulation (Anderson, 1997). Greenpeace activists seized the platform
to prevent deep sea disposal. The Brent Spar conflict was blown out of
proportion and its implications extended far beyond its immediate context,
involving a variety of societal actors. Although Greenpeace never called for a
boycott of Shell service stations, thousands of people stopped buying their
petrol at Shell. Greenpeace activists occupied the Brent Spar for more than
three weeks. Shell’s disposal plans were legally sanctioned by the UK
government (Nutt, 2000). However Shell abandoned its plans to dispose of Brent
Spar at sea, in the face of public and political opposition in northern Europe
(including some physical attacks and an arson attack on a service station in
Germany). Shell companies were faced with increasingly intense public
criticism, mostly in Continental northern Europe. Many politicians and
ministers were openly hostile and several called for consumer boycotts. There
was violence against Shell service stations, accompanied by threats to Shell
staff. The power of public pressure was experienced at first hand, whereas
Shell’s defeat marked a significant shift in corporate attitudes towards
societal pressure, the increasing power of global stakeholders and their
capacity to undermine corporate operations. It represented a shift of symbolic
importance in corporate-society relations.


In the early 1990s, Ken
Saro-Wiwa, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People
(MOSOP), led a non-violent campaign against environmental damage associated
with the operations of multinational oil companies, including Shell and British
Petroleum, in the Ogoni homelands of the Niger delta. In January 1993, MOSOP
organized peaceful marches of 144 around 300,000 Ogoni people – more than half
of the Ogoni population – through four Ogonicentres, drawing international
attention to his people’s plight. That same year, Shell ceased operations in
the Ogoni region. Shell’s involvement in Nigeria came to the fore again in
October 1990 when a peaceful protest in Umeuchem escalated. Eighty people were
killed by the police and 495 homes were destroyed. Shell states that it merely
asked for police protection. In 1995 Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were
executed. Ken SaroWiwa had implicated Shell during his “treason” trial and the company
was accused of providing money and supplies to the Nigerian military. When
SaroWiwa was executed, some of the world-wide condemnation of the act was aimed
at Shell. In February 2002, a United States District Judge ruled that a case
brought against Royal Dutch Shell by close relatives of Ken Saro-Wiwa could
proceed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New
York under the Alien Tort Claims Act, the Torture Victim Protection Act and
RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations) Act. Shell has continued
to be condemned by bodies such as Christian Aid, who reported that despite
Shell claims of ‘honesty, integrity and respect for people’ it had ‘failed to
use its considerable interest in Nigeria to bring about change in the Niger
delta’. The report also found evidence of failures to clean up oil spills,
pollution of rivers and water courses, and non-completion of promised projects
for community improvement



Shell Not acknowledging
it Role  in Niger Delta despite Its CRS

The term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has gained
new focus and remarkable prominence since the 1980s. What is noteworthy is that
it has moved beyond local or national arenas and become the subject of global
attention. In the context of developing countries, it has become part of
broader debates on development and poverty reduction, particularly in relation
to the absence of governance in many areas. The issue has been particularly
contested when it comes to the behaviour of oil and gas extracting
multinational corporations. The Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC)
and its operations in the Niger Delta have been at the centre of attention. The
environmental degradation, continuing violence and continued poverty of
communities in the Delta have been increasingly scrutinized in relation to
SPDC’s activities in the area.


Despite a significant increase in the SPDC’s development
projects in the region, scholars and civil society actors argue that very
little tangible progress has been made (Frynas, 2005: 588). This paper seeks to
examine what the primary obstacles are to the SPDC’s CSR efforts. After a brief
look at the history of Shell in the Niger Delta, this think piece will present
three key factors:

The complex nature of conflict and other social problems in
the Delta is beyond the scope of CSR activities to address.

The SPDC’s organizational structure and culture has
prevented the adoption of CSR activities that would best achieve developmental

Despite progress since the adoption of CSR practices, the
continued unwillingness of SPDC to acknowledge its role in the situation in the
Delta undermines its commitment to CSR.


 Shell Accepting Responsibility

As discussed in previous chapters, the violence, poverty and
environmental destruction in the Niger Delta is a result of a complex history,
in which Shell’s oil extraction itself has played a significant role. Extensive
damage to small-scale fishing and farming which has destroyed livelihoods in
the Delta is a result of the SPDC’s activities. Furthermore, the SPDC has
certainly contributed to growing militarism in the region, not simply through
generating societal grievances but also by directly supporting and paying
community groups to militarize in the hope of protecting the company’s
infrastructure (Asgill, 2012: 25). Despite this, the SPDC treats issues such as
environmental destruction and poverty as some pre-existing unfortunate
situation that has no causal relationship with the company’s activities. This
refusal to acknowledge responsibility plays a significant part in contributing
to a deep (and historically informed) distrust of Shell in the Delta


In addition to undermining trust, something seen as a
valuable (if not crucial) tool in establishing meaningful CSR, this rejection
of responsibility carries through to the rhetoric and practice of the SPDC. For
example, Shell focuses on criminality and oil theft as the cause of
environmental destruction (Shell: 2013). This is despite the fact that many
people argue that oil companies are often aware and even complicit in these
activities, and at the very least have contributed to the conditions in which
criminality thrives (Asgill, 2012: 25). In addition to these concerns, it
appears that the SPDC’s long-term effects on the Niger Delta (economically or
socially) are never taken into account by their CSR activities. Rather, focus
is placed on specific community initiatives that largely draw attention away
from the macro-level dynamics at play (Frynas, 2005: 596). Thus it is clear
that the SPDC’s refusal to acknowledge its role and responsibilities for the
situation in the Niger Delta acts as a significant obstacle to its CSR