LONDON (UNITED KINGDOM) / DURBAN (SOUTH AFRICA) – Pictures from outside the Shell AGM available from Friends of the Earth or download from: http://www.idspicturedesk.com/picturedesk/I?k=H231d4738k-67958&u=uqp
Shell directors, under fire for polluting communities and damaging people’s health, promised to visit some of the affected areas when challenged by community representatives at the AGM in London today (Monday).
People from Texas, Louisiana, South Africa and Nigeria travelled to the meeting with campaigners from Friends of the Earth to raise their concerns, publishing an alternative version of Shell’s report for shareholders.
Challenged by Durban community activist Desmond D’Sa, company chair Lord Oxburgh gave his personal assurance that he would visit the Durban refinery and see for himself the pollution suffered by the community. Shell stands accused of operating to lower standards at its Durban refinery, where leaks and gas flaring are regular occurrences.
Speaking after the meeting, Desmond D’Sa from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said:
“Lord Oxburgh told me in the meeting he would come to Durban. These words must be turned into action and we must see him on the fenceline. Then he can see for himself what is happening there.”
Hilton Kelley, who travelled to the meeting from Port Arthur, Texas, said:
“I think they realised that there are problems in Port Arthur and I asked them to come there and see what is going on and meet the real people on the ground. At the moment, I am optimistic that this year, Shell might take our concerns seriously.”
The company also faced questions from representatives from the Niger Delta, where oil spills and gas flares dominate the landscape.
Patrick Naagbantan from Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria asked directors at the meeting what had happened to the $70 million reportedly spent by Shell on community development in the Niger Delta. But he said after the meeting that he was not satisfied by the answer he was given.
“They gave me a vague response. $70 million is a lot of money. We want to know where it I gone and why it is not being spent on making concrete improvements. We have seen no real benefits on the ground.”
Friends of the Earth’s Head Corporate Accountability Campaigner Craig Bennett said:
“Shell is failing these communities and failing to recognise their concerns. We want to see concrete action on the ground to tackle pollution and deal with the problems they face. Shell has shown it cannot be trusted to implement the high standards it talks about. It is time it was forced to do so.
“Shareholders are rightly concerned by the financial risks caused by poor environmental and social performance. It is time Shell and other companies were forced to clean up its act for the benefit of shareholders, communities and the environment. The British Government must ensure that people have legal rights of redress against British companies such as Shell who profit from pollution and damaging communities.”
Friends of the Earth is campaigning for new corporate accountability legislation in the UK which would introduce campaigning for changes to UK company law so that financial obligations are counterbalanced by social and environmental concerns. Specifically, the Government must introduce:
• Mandatory reporting – requiring all UK companies to report annually on the impact of their operations, policies, products and procurement practices on people and the environment both in > the UK and abroad
• New legal duties on directors – to take reasonable steps to reduce any significant negative social or environmental impacts
• Foreign direct liability – to enable affected communities abroad to seek redress in the UK for human rights and environmental abuses resulting directly from the operations, policies, products and procurement practices of UK companies or their overseas subsidiaries.