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European Journal: John Donovan – Shell’s Enemy No. 1

(Screenshot from the documentary)

Full episode 02.05.12 | 22:30 – 23:00 UTC

European Journal – The Magazine from Brussels

European Journal is a 30 minute magazine on DW that delivers the inside take – reports on important political, economic and cultural developments in the EU with a strong focus on the European integration process. European Journal features issues that move Europeans and shows Europeans on the move.

Britain: Shell’s Enemy No. 1

John Donovan is a thorn in the side of the Shell oil group. For the past ten years, he has been posting about environmental abuses and other shortcomings at the global oil concern.

John Donovan’s campaign against Shell has already cost the company dearly. He supplied the Russian government with information about lax safety standards at the Sakhalin II oil-drilling project. Moscow took advantage of the revelations to divest Shell of its majority stake in the project in favor of the Russian oil company Gazprom.

(Screenshot from the documentary)

The source of Donovan’s vendetta against Shell has its roots in a personal dispute: Donovan was involved in a number of marketing campaigns with Shell, and later accused the company of violating intellectual property agreements. After Donovan’s own company went bankrupt, he became one of the biggest critics of the Shell group.

The entire programme can be viewedhere


One mistake in the introductory text. The company never went bankrupt. It ceased trading while we were engaged in several years of High Court litigation with Shell. The company had no creditors.We wanted to focus our entire attention on Shell.That attention has already cost Shell tens of billions of dollars.Not wild claims but provable fact.

European Journal Shell’s Enemy No 1

THE VIDEO: Narration by Nina Haase

Excerpt from Opening Introduction to the programme:

And Shell’s Enemy No 1; Meet the man whose on a vendetta

Introduction to the segment about John Donovan

It’s a long time ago that little David allegedly brought down giant Goliath with no more that a sling and a stone.

Modern heroes like John Donovan from the UK use modern tools of course when they fight big enemies. 

Donovan owns a website that publishes information on multinational oil giant Shell with the help of moles inside the company and that has made him a real thorn in the side of the group.

Video starts

Right next to the London Eye is Shell corporate headquarters.  And its the target of a grassroots protest movement.

John Donovan hands out flyers to passers by detailing the oil giants drilling projects.   Donovan and fellow campaigners say the multinational corporation is responsible for wreaking havoc in the places where it drills.

Their actions have become a source of annoyance for one of the worlds biggest oil companies.

John Donovan speaks… (Text on screen says: JOHN DONOVAN Runs Anti-Shell Website)

It embarrasses Shell senior management… things that we are able to publish in those leaflets… that its a humiliation for Shell but they cannot do anything about it because what we say is true and we can prove it”

Distributing leaflets outside the company headquarters is mostly a symbolic gesture. The real battle rages online.
Donovan secured rights to the internet domain royaldutchshellplc.commany years ago.What sounds like the company’s official homepage, is actually a site dedicated to exposing its dark side. Millions have read the online articles about scandalous Shell practices. In Nigeria for example oil leaks have contaminated the Niger River Delta. Donovan also says Shell has cooperated with rebels there.
He says he simply wants the company to live up to its own commitments.

John Donovan speaks…

“We want Shell to honour its own business principles. These were launched in 1976 and people are entitled to believe the promises that are made in there that Shell will at all times act with honesty, and integrity and openness when they deal with people, with their own employees, with their suppliers and with the general public. But in our experience, they do not. They are a ruthless, mean oil company.”

Donovan’s revelations have cost Shell billions.

In 2005, he wrote an email to Russian President Vladimir Putin disclosing lax security standards at the Sakhalin 2 drilling project in  Siberia. He warned of a looming environmental disaster.

(Screenshot from the documentary)

As a result, Shell fell out of favour in Moscow with financial repercussions. Profits sunk and Russia downgraded Shell to a minority partner in the joint venture.

Text on screen:

European Journal


(Screenshot from the documentary)

Former Russian Deputy Environment Minister

Oleg Mitvol speaks…

“Mr Donovan was of help to us with his documents. His files proved beyond a doubt that paperwork had been manipulated and problems had been purposely kept secret.”

Not surprisingly John Donovan doesn’t fill his tank at Shell stations. But he actually used to do business with Shell. He owned several gas stations and came up with advertising ideas for the energy giant. But Donovan says the partnership ended after a bitter disappointment.
John Donovan speaks…
“One of their managers had stolen ideas from us and expected that we wouldn’t pursue it that we would drop it because Shell is so rich and powerful. And we decided that we wouldn’t drop it and we pursued them through the courts and it’s gone on for two decades ever since.”

Donovan’s first hand experience with Shell’s treatment of ordinary people prompted him to dig for other evidence of improper behaviour

At his house in Colchester he’s been piling up his own research and informationthat been passed on to him by insiders.It’s a full-time job for the pensioner.

He even stores some of the files in an old refrigerator.

John Donovan speaks…

“We found out what Shell really thinks about us, because its in these Shell internal communications. And we found out that they set up a countermeasures team. They instituted a global spying operation against us. They sought advice from a specialist unit in Pittsburgh which is staffed and partly funded by the FBI.”

Donovan himself prefers transparency. He informs Shell of his protest plans and his website is accessible to everyone.

A former Shell employee of 37 years says Donovans campaign is bothersome and rightly so. 

Paddy Briggs speaks…

“When you have that amount of power, you need to be held accountable. And my view is that democratic systems don’t always hold multinationals like Shell to account as much they should. So there’s a gap and it’s into that gap people like John Donovan will come.”

One mans fight against one of the worlds biggest companies.

And John Donovan is determined to keep the towering giant fully in his sights


This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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