Shell has admitted past discrimination against Jewish employees, which cost at least 20 of them their lives. It supported racist regimes in Nazi Germany and more recently, Apartheid South Africa.
By John Donovan
Shell employees who have accused Shell of being a racist company will be interested in a comparison set out in “A HISTORY OF ROYAL DUTCH SHELL, Volume 3” between Shell’s much trumpeted business principles and those of its main competitor, ExxonMobil, in regard to equal employment opportunity.
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Other oil companies came out with comparable policy statements. For instance Exxon gave a booklet to its employees dealing with ethics and responsible behaviour. Interestingly, the Exxon document focused more on the individual employee rather than the operating companies. Starting with the policy on business ethics, the office of the chairman wrote: ‘The policy of this Corporation, as stated by the Board of Directors years ago and reaffirmed by the Board at its September 1975 meeting, is one of strict observance of all laws applicable to its business.’ Staff were addressed personally in the following manner: ‘An overly-ambitious employee might have the mistaken idea that we do not care how results are obtained, as long as he gets results. He might think it best not to tell higher management all that he is doing, not to record all transactions accurately in his books and records, and to deceive the Corporation’s internal and external auditors. He would be wrong on all counts. We do care how we get results.’ Despite using the male form of address in this document, the company advocated a policy on equal opportunity for individuals, ‘regardless of their race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, physical or mental handicap, and veteran’s status’. Incidentally, this clause was absent in the Shell statement. Instead, the Shell statement mentioned the responsibility of the Group ‘to promote the development and best use of human talent and potential and to encourage employee involvement in the planning and direction of their work’.
The most recent edition of the STANDARDS OF BUSINESS CONDUCT (published November 2011) by ExxonMobil still includes specific provision on equal employment opportunity policy.
As can be seen from the above information published in 2007, after being vetted and approved by senior Shell management, the company is much more reticent than ExxonMobil in providing such assurance.
Astonishingly, the current Shell Business Principles signed by Royal Dutch Shell Plc Chief Executive, Peter Voser, still does not give a comparable specific pledge making it absolutely clear there will be no racial, or other discrimination.
ExxonMobil clearly takes the view that this is such an important issue that no room should be left for doubt. In view of its past track record, you would have thought Shell would wish to do the same.