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Bad Publicity plus British Humour puts Shell on the defensive

Translation of an article published in an April 2012 edition of the German magazine: ECOreporter


Text in Nigeria Oil Spill Photo: The oil industry in Nigeria is the cause of ecological environmental problems

Article by Juergen Roettger.

April Fool

Bad Publicity plus British Humour –  puts Shell on the defensive

An early retired pensioner takes on the Shell Group : an unequal duel, one might think? Very likely. Because, the Shell Group has no chance against him. 

John Donovan is rapping the fingers of the Shell International Oil Multinational. For about ten years now, the early retired pensioner from the East English town of Colchester has been running a website: The Shell Group spends millions on image-polishing publicity, and Donovan only 150 Dollars for his internet website.  Donovan has published around 30,000 articles highlighting shortcomings of the British-Dutch Group. New reports are being added daily. Donovan gains support from a network of insiders who provide him with internal information and secret documentation, so that these can be made public.

For example, it was in this way that Donovan came upon internal correspondence within the Group many years ago concerning Shell offshore oil drilling operations on the Russian island of Sakhalin. This project with a projected production of 180,000 barrels of raw oil per day was essentially operated by Shell up to 2007, despite massive protest from the environmentalists.

It was possible for Donovan to undermine the project for Shell by means of a simple email message and attachment with documentation. This was because the email was addressed to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. The information made it possible for Mr. Putin to deprive Shell of its majority stake in the project in favour of its Russian partner with Shell being degraded to the status of a minor partner. Donovan revealed that Shell had been risking a catastrophic oil spill off the Russian Far East Coast and that Shell staff had warned of the impending hazard.

Pinpricks with humour and circumspection

Donovan, however is not just seeking such spectacular results. He has set up a platform with his website, which anyone can access and is attempting to bring the dark secrets of the Shell Group to light. The website primarily documents the many minor failings of the International Oil Multinational, alongside major shortcomings. Donovan manages to bring together press reports from all parts of the world, which place the Shell Group in a poor light. From a leakage in a Shell pipeline, through protests from environmentalists against a Shell project, right up to human rights protestors, who criticise Shell connections to political dictatorships – one pinprick after the other.

As a former advertising professional, Donovan is able to exploit his many years of commercial experience in that business. Together with his father, Donovan previously ran an advertising agency. One of the clients was the Shell Group, until the agency fell out with the large Group. Their claim was, that the Shell marketing department had adopted their ideas but did not pay for them. A long and tedious litigation process before the courts was the result. This ruined the small Agency which ceased trading in 1999. This was for Donovan an upsetting setback born of the financial circumstances; but for Shell, it turned out to be just an illusion of success. Shortly afterwards, Donovan launched his website. Donovan would not then, or now, give up his battle with Shell. His website bristles with British humour. For example, Donovan published an April Fool’s report about tracker dogs, which were supposedly sniffing around in the Arctic for oil on behalf of Shell, dressed up with photographic images of cute little whelps. On the day after, he publicly admitted the false report, only to point out, that the oil drilling techniques of Shell were practically no better than the use of sleuth hounds.

Donovan has acted cautiously. He warned Shell employees at a prominent point not to visit his website via the computers within the Group, because Shell was monitoring such data traces to his website and might possibly take action against its employees.

Who achieves more: an early retired pensioner, or a sustainable investment

The early retired pensioner considers his online activity against the Shell Group as his hobby horse. He intends to ride many such attacks on it against the International Oil Multinational. Several sustainable funds are said to follow the publications on Donovan’s website, before deciding to invest in Shell. And, they have had to recognise what can be achieved with publicity out there in the real world in contrast to the financial world. If it is possible for an early retired pensioner to generate such an effect, what would happen if investors themselves were to publish their criticisms of Shell?


Comment by John Donovan.

If Shell or the article author cares to supply a more accurate translation, we will happily substitute it for the version above.

The example provided of the website said to be bristling with British humour is a reference to our article: “Shell Arctic oil spill sniffer dogs: is this a late April Fools joke?” It related to a Guardian article which, unlike the fake adverts currently plaguing Shell, happens to be genuine. Our article was actually an Anglo-American collaboration.

As far as I know, we have never had any contact with Juergen Roettger, the author of the ECOreporteer article.

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

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