Let’s Talk About Shell & Greenwashing

This post is a little long overdue, given that a lot of the buzz went down last year, but I thought it a good idea to write up anyway. When it comes to the climate crisis, the consumer can often find themselves at the forefront of the discussion when it comes to maintaining accountability. Meaning big companies are often able to quickly pass the buck when their own actions are called into account. Companies just like Shell.

Royal Dutch Shell are a multinational oil industry company, more commonly known as Shell. You’ve probably seen their logo around petrol stations or even in recent news headlines.

Read more; Greenwashing; What it is and 6 Ways to Spot it

Shell Neon Sign

Back in November, Shell published a tweet asking the public what they were willing to change in order to help reduce their emissions. The options included ‘offset emissions’, ‘stop flying’, ‘buy electric vehicle’, and ‘renewable electricity’.

Understandably so, they found themselves on the receiving end of quite a bit of backlash. It also highlighted the fact that they may be trying to brand themselves in a new ‘greener’ light.

I’ve spoken about greenwashing a lot on this blog over the past year or so, but mainly in reference to fast fashion brands. So to see it happen so brazenly by one of the biggest polluters in the industry is quite interesting.

Royal Dutch Shell were listed as the 9th biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions from 1988-2015 by the Carbon Majors Database. Furthermore, they were ranked 7th worldwide in a second study by the Climate Accountability Institute. But it doesn’t end there. In 2018, the Carbon Disclosure Project listed Shell alongside BP, ExxonMobil, and Chevron as the driving force behind 70% of global greenhouse emissions over the last three decades.

Shell have a long history of damage and pollution in Nigeria – specifically in the Goi, Oruma, and Ikot Ada Udo villages. Years of oil spills contained water sources and impacted the health of residents, for which Shell attempted to settle for £4000 after accepting liability for the incidents. The communities were later offered £55,000 in compensation in 2015. However in 2017, the cleanup operation had yet to begin. To read more about Shell’s impact in Nigeria, click here to read the Friends of the Earth Europe article.

More examples of Shell’s damage to the environment

If trying to present an eco conscious front wasn’t despicable enough for a multi-million dollar oil company, Shell chief executives knew about the damage fossil fuels posed to the environment decades ago and failed to raise the alarm. Why? Because it would be bad for business. Obviously.

CEO Ben van Beurden said “Yeah, we knew. Everybody knew, and somehow we all ignored it.” in an interview with Justin Worland for Time Magazine.

Shell Oil Tank

Here’s a list of 8 articles I found when doing a search for “Shell greenwashing” that show multiple examples of the corporate greenwashing at hand by Shell over the past couple of years;

How I feel about the situation

From a personal point of view, I simply feel disheartened with it all. These big corporations are responsible for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions yet somehow the focus is always on the individual efforts. It makes me feel like why should I be making all these conscious efforts when someone like Shell can spill some oil in a conservation area in a matter of minutes and face almost no accountability for it?

I think it’s definitely time that these once ‘untouchable’ corporations are finally held up to their actions over the past however many decades and finally realise that the true responsibility lies with them, not with the general public.

What are your thoughts on the situation? Were you already clued in on what happened? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

4 comments so far.

4 responses to “Let’s Talk About Shell & Greenwashing”

  1. It makes me really wonder: will gasoline ever NOT be harmful to the environment? Is there any way to *truly* make it “greener”? It’s a challenging topic, especially since a lot of us need to use vehicles and don’t have another option when it comes to traveling. But I appreciate the eye-opening article here so that I’m still clued in.

    • Totally! I think companies like Shell will always be fighting a losing battle unless they start to divest from fossil fuels and investing in eco-friendly alternatives. It truly does make you think. Thanks so much for reading Stephanie, I really appreciate it and glad it gave you something to think about!
      El xx

  2. lexie says:

    I’m not too knowledge worthy on this topic, but this is a really interesting post and food for thought.
    I think there is certainly a growing demand for more reusable and sustainable energy, as consumers we can’t necessary practice what we preach through no fault of our own, r.e the comment above and driving, flying etc. If there were more mainstream eco-alternatives it would be really great. Defo a lot of progress to be made still, and a lot of accountability from these big corporations! x

    • Thanks so much for reading Lexie! There’s definitely a growing demand for sustainable energy but it’s so true what you mentioned in terms of price – if it’s not also sustainable for the consumer then is it truly sustainable? It certainly highlights the need for more maintstream systematic change as there’s definitely only so much we can do on an individual level.
      El xx

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I'm Elen Mai, the brains behind Welsh Wanderer and 20-something human biology student from (you guessed it) Wales! Welsh Wanderer is designed with the eco-conscious adventurer in mind. So stick around for tips & tricks on living sustainably.

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