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Shell’s Sustainability Saga: Striving for Change While Exxon Laughs All the Way to the Bank

Posted by John Donovan: 30 April 2024

In a world where the concept of environmental responsibility seems as elusive as a unicorn in a concrete jungle, Shell stands as a shining beacon of… well, maybe not. Let’s call it a flickering candle in a hurricane of pollution. According to the Carbon Majors Database, a staggering 80% of greenhouse gas emissions are linked to just 57 companies, and guess who’s playing second fiddle? That’s right, our dear old Shell, right behind ExxonMobil, the world’s big, bad, oil-slicked villain.

Despite activists’ angry tirades and more court cases than a daytime soap opera, both Exxon and Shell have been laughing all the way to the bank. In 2023, Exxon reported net profits of $36 billion, while Shell pocketed a modest $19.63 billion. You might think Shell would get a gold star for trying to be a tad more eco-conscious, setting ambitious climate targets and all. But alas, the stock market seems to have a different opinion. Exxon’s share price has shot up like a rocket, while Shell’s has crawled along like a snail with a hangover.

So, why the big discrepancy? Well, it all boils down to cold, hard cash. Turns out, oil and gas are still the cool kids on the block when it comes to making bank. Renewable energy? Meh, not so much. Sure, the future might be all sunshine and wind turbines, but right now, investors are more interested in the black gold.

But wait, there’s more! Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better for the fossil fuel fanatics, along comes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sending oil prices soaring to the heavens. Suddenly, climate change is old news, buried under a mountain of inflation and geopolitical turmoil. And what does Shell do? Well, they water down their emission targets, of course! Who needs sustainability when you’ve got dollar signs in your eyes?

But before we point fingers at Big Oil and scream, “Shame on you!”, let’s take a long, hard look in the mirror. Turns out, we’re all a bunch of hypocrites. Sure, we love to talk the talk about saving the planet, but when it comes to walking the walk, we’d rather not break a sweat. 

So, what’s the solution? Well, it’s simple: put your money where your mouth is. If we want energy companies to change their wicked ways, we’ve got to show them the money. But until then, it looks like Shell and Exxon will continue to dance to the tune of the almighty dollar, while the planet burns. Cheers to progress! Or should I say, cheers to profits?

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