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The Times: Case study: Shell

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October 3, 2007

Josefine van Zanten, the global head of diversity and inclusiveness, believes she’s doing her bit for the planet’s wellbeing

By Julie Daniels

You could say that Josefine van Zanten has green blood in her veins.

Her formative years were spent in Switzerland, a country where recycling was embedded in the culture before the rest of Europe had even heard of the word. So for someone whose passion for green living was instilled so early, isn’t working in the oil business an odd career choice?

Not according to van Zanten. She has been the global head of diversity and inclusiveness at Shell for just over a year and believes that she’s still doing her bit for the planet’s wellbeing. “If Shell had had a terrible reputation as far as the environment was concerned, I could never have joined,” she says.

“It was one of the first companies in the energy field to acknowledge the challenges we face in climate change. And it was one of the first to act on it. It is always questioning its carbon footprint.”

Her job is to drive forward diversity and inclusiveness – put simply, enabling underrepresented staff and potential employees to feel that they are being listened to and their opinions valued. “We have some of the strongest values and ethics, but this is not just respect for the individual – it is also reflected in the way Shell does business.”

The company’s aim is to be 5 per cent below its 1990 carbon output levels by 2010. It has invested $1 billion (£494 million) in alternative energy sources such as wind power, solar energy, biofuels and hydrogen, and the Royal Dutch Shell Board’s Social Responsibility Committee, headed by Wim Kok, former prime minister of the Netherlands, monitors the social and environmental impact of the production and use of fossil fuels.

Shell also says that it encourages the sort of local inclusiveness that enables Nigerians, for example, to take on leadership roles in their own country. Would Shell be the sort of company you would work for if you wanted to save the world?

Despite the reassurances, the oil giant may not be the first choice for the green-minded, but the company does quietly work to reduce its impact on the environment and takes its social and environmental responsibility seriously.

“It has raised my green consciousness to the next level,” says van Zanten. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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