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Royal Dutch Shell improper meddling in politics

From pages 41 & 42 of “Royal Dutch Shell and its sustainability troubles” – Background report to the Erratum of Shell’s Annual Report 2010

The report is made on behalf of Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands)
Author: Albert ten Kate: May 2011.

Interfering with politics

Improper involvement?

Oil and politics have a lot to do with each other. The home states of Royal Dutch Shell are the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. These countries might want to secure their oil/gas imports and the economic benefits of having an international oil company based within their territory. These interests might overpower ethical interests, such as the protection of human rights in countries hosting the oil company. Home states often might have the same business interest than “their” oil companies.

Oil companies may lobby their home states, so these will pay more attention to oil business possibilities. Oil companies may speak kindly of regimes that are in fact abusing human rights. Oil companies might keep their finger on the pulses of home as well as host states, in order to keep informed of the latest political developments.

One of the general policies prescribed by the OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises is that companies should abstain from any improper involvement in local political activities. The OECD does not have a clear definition of improper involvement. It states that companies might want to ask themselves whether their political activities are transparent; whether they would feel comfortable if these activities were described in detail in the media; and whether their activities are in the best interests of the host country.

In this section some examples are given of cases which could be, to some extent, seen as improper involvement in politics by Shell and/or home states and Shell working together to ensure business. Most of the examples became known through Wikileaks and through journalists/activists making use of the UK Freedom of Information Act.

1) Shell’s access to the Nigerian government

In October 2009, Shell’s Executive Vice President (EVP) for Shell Companies in Africa, Ms Ann Pickard met with the United States Ambassador to Nigeria. According to the cable from the U.S Embassy in Nigeria, the Shell EVP told the ambassador that the Government of Nigeria “had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries.”

Following the disclosure of this cable, Shell has stated that the suggestion of infiltration by Shell in the Nigerian government is far from the truth, and that this infiltration would not be in line with Shell’s General Business Principles. According to Shell, it has a total of 11 staff seconded to the Nigerian government, mainly technical specialists. Shell stated that it is usual in the oil industry for governments and businesses to keep close contact with each other. The reasons for this would be the importance of energy for society and the fact that governments often directly or indirectly participate in oil and gas activities.

THE COMPLETE 73 PAGE REPORT (with reference sources)

Further examples from this section of the report will be published in the coming days.

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