One World Trust: Accountability in Action: Extract From Global Accountability Newsletter: Issue 15, July 2007
The website Royaldutchshellplc.com is a gripe site established by John Donovan and his father, Alfred, to stream information to the public about the Shell Group, a collection of oil, gas, and petrochemical companies. John Donovan’s use of the website to blow the whistle on Shell’s environmental abuses in the Sakhalin project exhibits the power an individual website can have in holding a global organisation to account.
A ‘gripe site’ is traditionally one “devoted to the critique and/or mockery of a person, place, politician, corporation, or institution.”1 However, with the right contacts, a gripe site can become much more than simply a soap box. As The Royal Dutch Shell plc website shows, a gripe site can have a profound impact on global organisations.
Donovan’s battle with Shell began over breaches of contract with regards to sales promotions campaigns he and his father devised that were used to attract customers to Shell petrol stations. Shell and the Donovans settled out of court. But it was after Shell apparently made disparaging remarks about the Donovans that John set up Royaldutchshellplc.com.
Donovan “wanted the site to become a magnet for people who had a problem with the company.”2 The site has not only cost Shell billions of dollars in Russia, but Prospect Magazine reports that the Ogoni tribe of Nigeria also use the website to spread information about Shell’s activities in the Niger Delta, and that even Shell insiders unhappy with the company use it.3
Royaldutchshellplc.com is just one of many examples of how the Internet makes it possible for concerned individuals to initiate discussion about global organisations, post and share information about organisational actions and their impact, and provide a common forum for affected stakeholders. At the very least, ‘gripe sites’ such as this have a valuable watchdog function and remind global companies of the power of public opinion – thus forcing them to confront weaknesses in their own accountability.
1 Wikipedia, ‘Gripe Site,’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gripe_site
2 Brower, Derek, ‘Rise of the Gripe Site’, Prospect Magazine, February 2007, http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?search_term=shell&id=8209
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One World Trust: Information from Wikipedia and One World Trust Website
The Trust develops recommendations on practical ways to make global organisations more responsive to the people they affect, and how the rule of law can be applied to ensure access to opportunity and participation for all. The organisation shares its findings with political leaders, opinion-formers and the wider public to help improve policy and practice for accountable policy processes and political decision-making at global level, in Europe and in the UK. Established in 1951 in support of the All-Party Group for World Government, the Trust continues to have a close relationship with the UK Parliament. The Trust also is an NGO with Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Lord (P eter) Archer of Sandwell PC is the President of the Trust. Vice Presidents include Lord Foulkes of Cumnock PC, Lord Maclennan of Rogart PC, Baroness Whitaker, Sir Richard Jolly, KCMG and Sir David Knox.