”False Promises”: A study of Shell’s Corporate SocialResponsibility of Oil and gas in Nigeria. RELEVANT CHAPTERENVIRONMENTAL CONFLICTS, RISE OF ENVIRONMENTALISM ,SHELLSCANDALS AND ITS ACKNWOLEDGEMENT. Introduction The purpose of this Chapter is to locate the Nigerian casestudy with respect to a wider series of environmental and social controversiesthat Shell faced during the last few decades.
It discusses the emergence of aCSR agenda at Shell that it situates within the context of environmentalregulation debates and the rise of environmentalism and the environmentaljustice movement over the last 3 decades. The chapter reviews in brief some ofthe high profile incidents and resource conflicts that implicated Shell andprompted widespread anti-Shell protests which have attracted so much adversepublicity against the company both in the West and in developing countries,particularly Nigeria. It argues that, as a direct consequence of recurrentcorporate-society incidents, Shell responded with an ambitious CSR agenda thataimed to restore its credibility and legitimacy amongst global and localstakeholders. Yet it has refused to take it responsibility in some case most especially the case of NigerDelta. The context for the rise of corporate environmentalism Several drivers haveplayed a role in the emergence of CSR, as corporate and societal 129relationships have evolved to encompass a wide range of social responsibilitiesover and above the legal and economic responsibilities of a businessenterprise. Such drivers include the increasing power of corporations, thenegative impacts of corporate activities, the globalisation process andregulatory pressures. However, by mobilising and focusing public pressure uponindustry and individual corporations, different major currents of thought haveplayed determining roles in forcing industry to accept the CSR agenda .The nextsections outline two such key movements, and highlights how they are linkedwith the emergence of CSR in its modem form.
S. 2.1 The rise ofenvironmental movement .
The ecological crisis in modem society is a well-establishedtopic in academic and policy debates (Yearley, 1992). The rise of environmentalpolitics in the 1960s was largely driven by environmental movements and aresurgent global civil society. According to Jamison (1996), the movementfocussed on creating awareness throughout the 1960s. For example, thepublication of Rachel Carlson’s Silent Spring (1962), Paul Ehrlich’s ThePopulation Bomb (1968) and Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons (1968)called public attention to the issue, and popularised the idea of ecologicallimits. This period also saw the establishment of environmental NGOs focusingon the protection of the environment such the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF)and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In the1970s, the environmental movement became established as a political issue andentered the phase of organisation and institutionalisation (Jamison, 1996). Forexample, one of the 130 outcomes is the implementation of the United NationsEnvironmental Programme (UNEP) after the Stockholm conference, and the creationof the transnational environmental group Greenpeace.
There was also aproliferation of alternative holistic visions of the nature-societyrelationship, such as Goldsmith’s Blueprint fo r Survival (1972). This wasunderpinned 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 historyof environmental movement (Murphy and Bendell, 1997).
The ecological limitsturned into a permanent topic of public debate, which was shrouded in politicaldisputes over possible remedies, especially as the oil crisis hit Westerneconomies. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the environmental movement entered aphase of professionalisation. For example, Greenpeace and other environmentalNGOs focused on lobbying and grew in capacity and reach. They also gained moremomentum through the publication of the Brundtland Report (WCED, 1987), whichestablished the concept of sustainable development and thereby sought toreconcile 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 conservationand preservation ethic – where nature was seen as a beautiful wilderness to beprotected from man – while neglecting the human dimension. Critical voices werelater channelled through the environmental justice movement . The environmentaljustice movement has shifted environmental priorities away from what isperceived as a traditional emphasis on eco-centric themes (global warming,ozone depletion, nature protection), towards human-centred concerns forindividual health, pesticide control, community protection, etc.).
“Environmental and human rights have no boundaries, becausepollution has no boundaries… Environmental justice organisations are startingto understand that that they are working in a global context…
Communities allover the world are finding commonalities in their experiences and goals inseeking environmental justice4″(Environews, 2007, p. 501). Shell scandals andthe rise of environmentalism at ShellThere have beensuccessions of major incidents involving Shell that gradually undermined thecompany’s reputation and led to widespread civil society protests around theworld, and those new forms of collaboration between the civil societies indeveloped and developing countries that further threatened the company’sreputation and legitimacy. This parts also contain a brief discussion about Shellscandal in Niger Delta and the rise of the Ogoni movement . Shell also has a refinery located in Diamond, a small townlocated in Louisiana, situated along the shores of the Mississippi River. Thecommunity faced highly risky exposure to poisonous gas from pollution, and wasa regular victim of recurrent explosions that killed a lot of people andinflicted extensive damages to property belonging to fence line communities.The first explosion happened in 1973 and took the lives of two Diamondresidents.
Another major explosion occurred on May 5th 1988 and killedsix people, and injured 42 people (Lemer, 2005). The blast shattered windows upto 30 miles away and damage was sustained on both sides of the mile-wideMississippi river. Following the incident about 159 million pounds of toxicchemicals were spewed into the air, requiring the evacuation of 4,500 people.Diamond residents faced recurrent emergencies that forced them to evacuatetheir homes eight times in 12 years.
Shell was later forced to pay out $172million in damages to some 17,000 claimants (Ibid.). In the 1990s Shell faced a full-scale environmental protestconcerning the disposal of its Brent Spa, an oil storage and tanker loadingbuoy in the Brent oilfield, operated by Shell UK in the North Sea. Although therig was located in the UK, and the issue was a domestic problem from a UK pointof view, it was internationalised, with the involvement of environmentalcampaign organisations such as Greenpeace, and quickly became a symbol ofcrossborder importance despite the fact that it was located in UK waters and subject 143 to clearly definednational regulation (Anderson, 1997).
Greenpeace activists seized the platformto prevent deep sea disposal. The Brent Spar conflict was blown out ofproportion and its implications extended far beyond its immediate context,involving a variety of societal actors. Although Greenpeace never called for aboycott of Shell service stations, thousands of people stopped buying theirpetrol at Shell. Greenpeace activists occupied the Brent Spar for more thanthree weeks. Shell’s disposal plans were legally sanctioned by the UKgovernment (Nutt, 2000). However Shell abandoned its plans to dispose of BrentSpar 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 inGermany). Shell companies were faced with increasingly intense publiccriticism, mostly in Continental northern Europe. Many politicians andministers were openly hostile and several called for consumer boycotts.
Therewas violence against Shell service stations, accompanied by threats to Shellstaff. The power of public pressure was experienced at first hand, whereasShell’s defeat marked a significant shift in corporate attitudes towardssocietal pressure, the increasing power of global stakeholders and theircapacity to undermine corporate operations. It represented a shift of symbolicimportance in corporate-society relations. In the early 1990s, KenSaro-Wiwa, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People(MOSOP), led a non-violent campaign against environmental damage associatedwith the operations of multinational oil companies, including Shell and BritishPetroleum, in the Ogoni homelands of the Niger delta. In January 1993, MOSOPorganized peaceful marches of 144 around 300,000 Ogoni people – more than halfof the Ogoni population – through four Ogonicentres, drawing internationalattention to his people’s plight.
That same year, Shell ceased operations inthe Ogoni region. Shell’s involvement in Nigeria came to the fore again inOctober 1990 when a peaceful protest in Umeuchem escalated. Eighty people werekilled by the police and 495 homes were destroyed. Shell states that it merelyasked for police protection. In 1995 Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others wereexecuted. Ken SaroWiwa had implicated Shell during his “treason” trial and the companywas accused of providing money and supplies to the Nigerian military.
WhenSaroWiwa was executed, some of the world-wide condemnation of the act was aimedat Shell. In February 2002, a United States District Judge ruled that a casebrought against Royal Dutch Shell by close relatives of Ken Saro-Wiwa couldproceed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of NewYork under the Alien Tort Claims Act, the Torture Victim Protection Act andRICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations) Act. Shell has continuedto be condemned by bodies such as Christian Aid, who reported that despiteShell claims of ‘honesty, integrity and respect for people’ it had ‘failed touse its considerable interest in Nigeria to bring about change in the Nigerdelta’. The report also found evidence of failures to clean up oil spills,pollution of rivers and water courses, and non-completion of promised projectsfor community improvement Shell Not acknowledgingit Role in Niger Delta despite Its CRSPractise.The term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has gainednew focus and remarkable prominence since the 1980s. What is noteworthy is thatit has moved beyond local or national arenas and become the subject of globalattention. In the context of developing countries, it has become part ofbroader debates on development and poverty reduction, particularly in relationto the absence of governance in many areas. The issue has been particularlycontested when it comes to the behaviour of oil and gas extractingmultinational corporations.
The Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC)and its operations in the Niger Delta have been at the centre of attention. Theenvironmental degradation, continuing violence and continued poverty ofcommunities in the Delta have been increasingly scrutinized in relation toSPDC’s activities in the area. Despite a significant increase in the SPDC’s developmentprojects in the region, scholars and civil society actors argue that verylittle tangible progress has been made (Frynas, 2005: 588). This paper seeks toexamine what the primary obstacles are to the SPDC’s CSR efforts.
After a brieflook at the history of Shell in the Niger Delta, this think piece will presentthree key factors:The complex nature of conflict and other social problems inthe Delta is beyond the scope of CSR activities to address.The SPDC’s organizational structure and culture hasprevented the adoption of CSR activities that would best achieve developmentalgoals.Despite progress since the adoption of CSR practices, thecontinued unwillingness of SPDC to acknowledge its role in the situation in theDelta undermines its commitment to CSR. Shell Accepting ResponsibilityAs discussed in previous chapters, the violence, poverty andenvironmental destruction in the Niger Delta is a result of a complex history,in which Shell’s oil extraction itself has played a significant role. Extensivedamage to small-scale fishing and farming which has destroyed livelihoods inthe Delta is a result of the SPDC’s activities. Furthermore, the SPDC hascertainly contributed to growing militarism in the region, not simply throughgenerating societal grievances but also by directly supporting and payingcommunity groups to militarize in the hope of protecting the company’sinfrastructure (Asgill, 2012: 25). Despite this, the SPDC treats issues such asenvironmental destruction and poverty as some pre-existing unfortunatesituation that has no causal relationship with the company’s activities.
Thisrefusal to acknowledge responsibility plays a significant part in contributingto a deep (and historically informed) distrust of Shell in the Deltacommunities. In addition to undermining trust, something seen as avaluable (if not crucial) tool in establishing meaningful CSR, this rejectionof responsibility carries through to the rhetoric and practice of the SPDC. Forexample, Shell focuses on criminality and oil theft as the cause ofenvironmental destruction (Shell: 2013). This is despite the fact that manypeople argue that oil companies are often aware and even complicit in theseactivities, and at the very least have contributed to the conditions in whichcriminality thrives (Asgill, 2012: 25). In addition to these concerns, itappears that the SPDC’s long-term effects on the Niger Delta (economically orsocially) are never taken into account by their CSR activities. Rather, focusis placed on specific community initiatives that largely draw attention awayfrom the macro-level dynamics at play (Frynas, 2005: 596).
Thus it is clearthat the SPDC’s refusal to acknowledge its role and responsibilities for thesituation in the Niger Delta acts as a significant obstacle to its CSRpolicies.