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Waitrose urged to freeze links with Shell’s Arctic drilling

Greenpeace launches campaign condemning supermarket’s new partnership with Shell, but Waitrose insists the deal is ‘tiny’

By Jessica Shankleman: 04 December 2012

Waitrose is the latest company to come under fire from Greenpeace, which has alleged its ties to an oil company planning to drill in the Arctic undermines its ethical commitments.

The group has launched a new campaign yesterday urging the retailer to drop plans for a new partnership with Royal Dutch Shell that would see Waitrose supermarkets open in Shell petrol stations.

In a spoof advert, Greenpeace accuses Waitrose of misleading the public by promoting its charitable giving over the holiday period and hiding its links with Shell.   

Shell has a contract with the US government to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea, 70 miles off Alaska’s north-west coast.

Greenpeace is concerned that an accident in icy waters would be “disastrous” and be near impossible for Shell to respond to quickly.

Shell operates 13 petrol stations next to Waitrose branches and is selling Waitrose goods in some of its forecourts. Waitrose also offers fuel promotions with Shell.

“Waitrose can clean up a spill in aisle four with a mop and bucket, but an oil spill in the Arctic cannot be cleaned up so easily,” said Greenpeace campaigner Sara Ayech. “It would be a disaster. And it would also have huge consequences for all those companies linked to it, such as Waitrose and Shell.

“Waitrose trades on its caring, green image. It’s going to lose that carefully nurtured look very soon, unless they drop Shell.”

However, Waitrose responded to the accusations, by insisting its links with Shell were “tiny”.

“We put as much thought and careful consideration into our relationships with other businesses as into everything we do,” it said in a statement. 

“In the context of Shell UK or worldwide, the arrangement we have with them is tiny. Unlike our supermarket competitors, who have substantial petrol operations, Waitrose has chosen to get out of the fuel business.”

The company also said it had been reassured that Shell would comply with US legislation and protect the environment when drilling in the Arctic.

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