Eight Shell scandals prove that the company has a history of contempt for people and the planet and that they should be brought to justice.
The biggest companies in the world are often implicated in environmental and human rights abuses. Yet these crimes go unpunished. That’s why Friends of the Earth is planning to take Shell to court and is demanding binding national and international laws to hold big business to account.
In a letter sent to the company on April 4, Friends of the Earth Netherlands claims that Shell, through its corporate activities and corporate strategy, breaches its legal duty of care by causing climate damage across the globe and undermining the Paris Agreement.
Here are eight of Shell’s most immoral and, often, illegal corporate scandals to come to light, and why they should be brought to justice.
1. Shell spends $22 million annually on anti-climate lobbying
Shell claims publicly that it embraces the Paris climate accord, but what occurs behind the scenes is quite different. According to research, Shell spent some $22 million in 2015 on lobbying activities against climate policies. Of the 25 largest corporations, Shell, Exxon, IBM, Total and Pfizer have, via their industry associations, the largest negative impact on climate policy.
2. Shell knew its actions would cause catastrophic climate change
Confidential internal documents, and Shell’s own film Climate of Concern, reveal that Shell has been aware of the dangers of climate change for over 30 years. Shell’s film notes that climate change may occur so swiftly that society will be unable to adapt to it. Shell warns viewers that, among other things, many climate refugees will be created due to rising sea levels and other catastrophic environmental changes. The film concludes with the argument that “taking action now is the only safe insurance that we have”. Nevertheless, the company continues to focus on fossil fuels.
3. Shell is transforming the Niger Delta into a disaster area
Shell has been extracting oil from the Niger Delta for over half a century, which has earned it billions of dollars. Meanwhile, the majority of the people who inhabit the Delta region never see any of these billions and are forced to live in the midst of oil pollution, which has left a number of villages uninhabitable. Friends of the Earth Netherlands, together with four Nigerian farmers, filed a lawsuit against Shell in 2008. Ten years have now passed, and there has been no final decision. Two of the claimants have since died and the villagers continue to live in a heavily polluted environment.
4. Shell is jointly responsible for murders in Nigeria
According to Amnesty International, Shell was involved in numerous murders, tortures and rapes that were carried out by paramilitary organizations in Nigeria in the 1990s. Shell’s executives were probably aware of these atrocities. Shell had, after all, insisted on military support, even after it became known that the security forces had killed, tortured and raped demonstrators.
5. Shell avoids taxes
Shell states that the countries in which it operates must benefit from its presence. But, apparently, paying taxes in the countries where they drill is not what Shell means by benefits. Shell actually received net tax refunds in both the United Kingdom and Germany in 2016. Shell has registered as many as 44 private limited companies in Bermuda and 168 in the Netherlands, as well as in Mozambique, the Philippines and Kazakhstan. This means a great deal of Shell’s revenues go untaxed. These arrangements might not (yet) be illegal, but they are immoral. Developing countries could certainly use these uncollected tax revenues.
6. Shell turns a beautiful bay into an asphalt wasteland
Shell has had a refinery on Curaçao in the Caribbean since 1915. The enormous demand for aviation fuel – a light oil product – during World War II meant that the demand for heavier fuel oil dropped dramatically. This left Shell’s refineries with a lot of asphalt, a liquid oil byproduct. Shell simply pumped this asphalt into the swampy, mangrove-covered areas of Busca Bay in Willemstad. By 1953, some 1.5-2 million tonnes of waste had been dumped into this ‘lake’, which, to this day, is called Asphalt Lake.
7. Shell is involved in bribing a former petroleum minister to achieve an offshore oil field
In 2011, Shell and Italian oil company Eni paid over $1 billion for an oil field off the coast of Nigeria. Most of this money disappeared into the pockets of the corrupt former petroleum minister and convicted money launderer David Etete. Leaked e-mails show that Shell was aware of this. A number of Shell’s top executives have since been subpoenaed to appear in an Italian court in connection with this affair. A Shell subsidiary has also been charged with corruption in Nigeria and the case is being investigated in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States and Switzerland.
8. Shell is attempting to avoid liability for earthquake-related damages in Groningen in the Netherlands
Shell has been making profits for decades from its gas exploitation activities in Groningen. But the gas drilling, by the NAM (a Dutch oil and gas company owned 50% by Shell and 50% by Exxon) is causing earthquakes and damaging peoples houses. Several courts have ruled that Shell is liable for the damages, but the company is trying everything it can to squirm its way out. In June 2017, in an apparent effort to avoid liability, Shell decided to no longer guarantee the debts of the NAM.
Support Friends of the Earth Netherlands in their legal case against Shell
If Shell does not stop wrecking the climate, Friends of the Earth Netherlands will sue Shell. We need the rest of the world to stand with us as we take Shell to court.
Read more about our work on Climate justice and energy
Shell is wrecking the climate. We are taking Shell to Court.
Shell is one of the biggest climate polluters in the world. This transnational company has known about the severity of climate change and the impacts of oil and gas drilling for decades, but has not only misled the public on the issue, it continues drilling for fossil fuels.
Top 5 Shell scandals
Across the world Shell’s climate wrecking activities are leaving a trail of devastation, from Nigeria to the Netherlands. We cannot save the climate if large corporations continue to pollute the planet. This is why Friends of the Earth Netherlands is taking Shell to court.