Bill Campbell (above) the retired Group Auditor of Shell International comments on our recent article: -
February 15th, 2008
By Bill Campbell
These comments relate only to the UK and only to health and safety of employees at work whether these employees are employed directly by Shell or indirectly
Far be it from me to question Mr Wiseman but in relation to the UK and the obligations of a Duty of Care Holder (such as Shell) under the various provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act then he is in my humble opinion wrong if he thinks that the SGBP will not, or could not be used in a British Court, or if he thnks the SGBP are not legally binding.
The debate would focus around the word ‘govern’, see the following extract from the SGBP
The Shell General Business Principles ‘govern’ how
each of the Shell companies which make up the Shell
Group* conducts its affairs.
Govern in this respect means that the persons who are ultimately responsible (Chairman and CEO) must by the fact that they have issued the SGBP into the publc domain be able to demonstrate that the governance process was effective after the fact i.e have a system of essential management controls in place to ‘govern’ the Company and in such a way that it meets those parts of the SGBP which relate to mandatory requirements in the area of the world where the Shell Operating Unit functions.
If this system was seen under public inquiry to have failed after an undesirable event say causing loss of life then the Chairman and CEO could be held accountable using the SGBP because compliance with that was their responsibility and not that of a technician say on Brent Charlie.
Where I agree with Wiseman is that the SGBP could and perhaps should not be used in Law where the commitments are aspirational, perhaps related to values but it most certrainly be valid when it gives commitments related to Policy and which after the event that Policy was verified to have been knowingly violated
For example it is policy as stated in the SGBP in relation to employees ‘to provide them with good and safe working conditions’ and to ‘give
proper regard to health, safety’ And the SGBP infers because it is a governance process document that it will be the accountability of the signatory of the SGBP to ensure that ‘Shell companies have a systematic approach to health and safety etc’ audited from time to time by an audit process owned by the Governors.
It should also be noted that in relation to Health and Safety, and as a direct result of the Shell plea of guilty to the unlawful killing of persons on Brent Bravo et all that the SGBP was re-drafted with another principle which is not an aspiration, a goal, but a mandatory requirement for every Duty of Care Holder in the UK not just Shell and that is the following
We comply with all applicable laws and regulations of
the countries in which we operate.
It is always best to give an example. North Sea operations are governed and controlled by the Government under the various requirements of the Health and Safety Work Act and the daughter legislation the Safety Case Regulations.
Cormorant Alpha Safety Case for example is a mandatory demonstration of how the Duty Holder will comply with his binding requirements under Law, and was accepted on behalf of Society by the enforcing authority (HSE) and failure to do comply may result in prosecution or loss of License to operate.
Now Cormorant Alpha Safety Case, as all other Safety Cases has a Safety Management System as a section of the document and the SMS refers to the corporate management system (CMS) and low and behold the CMS refers, yes you guessed right, refers to the group SGBP at the ultimate pinnacle of the organisation. So the SGBP are a part of the Safety Case of that there is no doubt and should not be a contegious issue.
Now that this is said we may find that Shell alters all its Safety Cases in the UK to delete reference to SGBP because it is that reference that may eventually get Directors and the current CEO into Court (as SGPB signatory) when this country eventually gets around to putting into Law a proper system for handling Corporate negligence homocide