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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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.