Shell In Nigeria: An Enduring CSR Conundrum

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/25/2010 12:02:00 AM
This is a follow-up to a post I made concerning Nigeria's oil curse. In that post, I discussed how it was a real shame that Nigeria has not built up significant oil refining capacity despite being the largest exporter of crude oil in Africa. Here, we zero in on the activities of one of the foreign firms whose activities have received criticism over the years in the oil-rich but troubled Niger Delta. The still-controversial execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa of the Ogoni tribe is well-known and has caused many corporate social responsibility issues to be raised with regard to Shell. Nevertheless, the activist group The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility has just released a report suggesting that not much has improved with regard to Shell's treatment of environmental issues or social issues concerning its treatment of local communities. Here are the conclusions and recommendations though the whole report is well worth reading for those interested in the subject matter:

Conclusions and recommendations
Despite their differences of emphasis, the case studies reveal a consistent thread of concerns. These include a continuing failure by Shell and SPDC [Shell Petroleum Development Corporation] to operate in the Niger Delta fully according to robust international social and environmental standards; severe pollution of air, land and water, with disastrous impacts on health and livelihoods; inadequate inclusion of communities in decisions affecting their lives; a failure to dialogue respectfully, address critical needs and maintain trust; short-termism and lack of vision.

Shell’s own General Business Principles, if rigorously implemented, would go some way to meet these concerns. So would the recommendations of the 2008 Report of the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta, set up by the Nigerian Federal Government and chaired by MOSOP President Ledum Mitee. Also worth consideration are practices of other international oil companies that are said to have secured more community consent in the Delta than Shell and SPDC have achieved.

The report makes the following ten overall recommendations to Shell and SPDC:
  1. Stop gas flaring as a matter of urgency, prioritising flares closest to communities, if necessary halting production while flares are eliminated.
  2. Mobilise resources without delay to address communities’ need for sustainable sources of clean drinking water.
  3. Embark on a Delta-wide environmental audit and rehabilitation programme,cleaning up the legacy of oil spills, polluted land and waterways, and rapidly replacing old pipelines to international standards.
  4. Transform SPDC’s operating culture through a continuous programme of staff training in human rights, conflict management and community relations.
  5. Apply effective social and environmental impact assessment methodologies; respect principles of open dialogue and community consent; establish independent monitoring and effective grievance mechanisms.
  6. Scale back operations in localities where significant unfulfilled commitments remain and community tensions exist until problems have been remedied.
  7. Transform community development programmes through participatory, inclusive and empowering strategies.
  8. Implement a policy of fully disaggregated revenue and expenditure transparency.
  9. Affirm the findings of the Report of the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta and publicly commit to work with others in implementing its recommendations.
  10. Link the remuneration of senior company executives responsible for Niger Delta operations to satisfactory progress on human rights and environmental issues.