[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Shell Response to UK Guardian article

  <HEAD><TITLE>Progress and a sustainable future</TITLE>
  The following article has been contributed by Mark Moody-Stuart,
  chairman of Shell Transport and Trading. It is in reply to an essay in
  The Guardian on 15 November 1997. The article has been submitted to the
  paper for possible publication. </P>
  Shell; progress and a sustainable future</B></FONT>
  Issued 25th November 1997.</B>
  Big enterprises are fair game, and it's always open season. Like most
  institutions, Shell has become accustomed to comment and criticism. This
  is useful; but criticism must lead to dialogue of ideas as well as
  words. So, having seen our company branded as "Unloveable Shell", I want
  to enter the debate on behalf of one hundred thousand Shell employees
  around the world - and their families - who feel personally affected
  when the company is attacked.
  Those people are Shell. We are individuals with firm values and social
  commitments who share the belief that it is possible, and desirable, to
  run a profitable business without sacrificing values to profit. We see
  the business as a contributor to present prosperity and future progress.
  Some look back at the history of the 20th century and see it as
  dominated by some sort of evil empire, with Big Business playing the
  arch villain. Others believe that business has enabled widespread
  economic and social progress, in the course of a turbulent era when the
  unpredictable often seemed to become the norm.
  In Shell, we subscribe to what we believe is the positive view. History
  has not been the perfect midwife but it brings forth progress: progress
  which we who have benefited from it have no right to deny to those who
  now seek what we take for granted - from running water, through reliable
  power and transport to internet access. To those who say that material
  prosperity undermines traditional values and cultures, I would say that
  poverty and the social tensions it breeds are far more destabilising.
  Certainly we should try to learn from the past, but the future starts
  from where we are now and whatever your perspective, there is no doubt
  that today we live in a world which is far richer, in material terms,
  than at any other point in its history. The challenge is to spread the
  benefits of material progress to those who have too little. Many people
  worry about it - business plays a real part in doing it.
  We believe that Shell resources - human, technological and financial -
  are helping to shape a future where the benefits of economic development
  bring higher living standards for an increasing proportion of the
  world's population.
  In the 1997 Human Development Report published by the United Nations
  Development Programme, 25 years of human progress in Oman is described
  and the country hailed as "a global pace setter in human development".
  That progress was funded by oil development - but it was the Government
  and people of Oman who applied that oil income wisely. Industry is never
  more than a contributor to the process - that is why the results vary
  from the spectacularly good to the near disastrous. The UNDP report
  shows how remarkable progress can be achieved by sensible policies
  coupled with economic development. Well worth a read if you are not
  hooked on wallowing in unrelieved gloom!
  Shell's primary role is as an economic actor: creating wealth, providing
  employment and giving broad economic stimulus. We have a responsibility
  to give a return to the people and pension funds who have entrusted us
  with their money, people who come from a very broad spectrum of society.
  And so far, the world has discovered nothing to replace the workings of
  the free market as the most open and efficient way of allocating capital
  - one of the fundamental ingredients of economic development. At the
  most basic level, our operations meet human needs for heat, light and
  transportation - the building blocks of progress.
  But in doing this, we also believe that our business must uphold certain
  values that are completely separate from purely commercial
  considerations, and accept that it has responsibilities beyond its
  economic contribution. To that end we have, and have had for years, a
  published statement of the principles which govern the way we operate.
  They cover business integrity, political activities, health, safety and
  the environment, the community, competition, communication and more
  recently human rights. In other words, the Statement provides, for our
  employees to follow and for the outside world to judge us by, an ethical
  framework which is mandatory, not optional but just having those
  principles is no longer enough.
  In the past, a political party, or a bank, or an oil company could say
  "trust me" and expect that to be enough. Today, people say "tell me -
  listen to me - show me". They want to understand policy and see proof of
  performance. This "show me" world demands openness almost without
  limitation on anything from road or runway construction to the funding
  of political parties. Trust has to be earned by transparency. That's one
  of the most important lessons we've learned in Shell in recent years,
  and as an institution I believe we're not alone in learning it.
  At the same time, we are conscious of the growing gap between what
  companies can deliver and what society expects of them. Issues like the
  responsibility of business in relation to human rights or environmental
  priorities can be represented as right versus wrong - with business in
  the wrong. But business organisations do not have the power to solve,
  unilaterally, complex environmental, social or political problems. How
  many of our critics would want to give us that power? I believe that it
  would be dangerous for us as business to have that power. We can act
  only within the legitimate role of business. And only broad dialogue and
  debate can clarify what should be accepted as "legitimate".
  Last year, we embarked on a series of round-table discussions on
  Society's Changing Expectations to increase our understanding of new
  demands and perceptions and to identify solutions. More recently, we
  followed this up with an extensive MORI survey around the world. We did
  this not only to gain a deeper insight into what people think of, and
  want from us, but also to provide a basis for constructive debate about
  the legitimate role and responsibilities of business. To the best of my
  knowledge, we were the first to do anything like this on such a scale,
  as well as being the first company to accept and publicly debate the
  dilemmas facing multinationals.
  We are conscious that in helping to create the future, we are working
  with natural resources which are also part of our children's heritage.
  So our activities must be based on support for sustainable development;
  on 'meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the
  ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. In our 1996
  Annual report we acknowledged the need to take prudent precautionary
  action in response to possible climatic effects of increasing
  atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.
  One aspect of this is the recent announcement of a new core business,
  Shell International Renewables. The world is in the early stages of
  transition to new, affordable, energy sources, and there is no doubt
  that these sources will play an increasingly important role as the 21st
  century unrolls. In Shell, we have a '50/50 vision': that by 2050, 50%
  of world energy will be supplied by renewables. Our aim is to invest now
  to help this happen through the normal pattern of technology
  development, commercialisation and optimisation, not by long-term,
  large-scale government subsidies. An energy enterprise like Shell has
  the future as a day-to-day companion. Decisions taken today concern
  projects that will come to fruition in 10 or 20 years time.
  Our investment programme is not only long-term, it is also the largest
  commitment by any private company. The nature of our business, and our
  business principles, mean that where we invest we are looking not only
  to stay, but to take responsibility for and contribute to building long-
  term relationships. In Peru, we are involved in a project called
  Camisea, which is a potential large scale development of natural gas. It
  offers enormous prospects for Peru and its people, but it also proffers
  huge challenge, particularly in relation to the environment and
  indigenous peoples. The Shell company concerned had to meet the
  justifiable concerns and sensitivities of local communities, regional
  authorities and the national government, as well as a range of non-
  governmental organisations. From the start, the company made a priority
  of communication. A long time before it signed the license agreement
  with the Peruvian government, a consultant was asked to help decide who
  were the stakeholders it should talk with about the best way to approach
  the project.
  Then, the company began communicating with a wide spectrum of people
  both inside and outside Peru. Not just to tell them what it intended,
  but to get their feedback on its ideas and their advice on how to
  proceed in the most acceptable way. As a result, the development will be
  shaped to provide a minimum of disturbance to the environment and to
  local people, and its progress will be independently monitored by an NGO
  network of 35 organisations. The success of the whole Camisea project
  relies on its being a long-term partnership for the benefit of everyone
  Looking to the future does not mean you should forget the past,
  including its problems. No institution which has been around for 100
  years can look back and have no regrets for what was done in a different
  historical or social context. Times change, knowledge increases,
  expectations expand, civilisation develops. My concern is simply to
  ensure, for the sake of our employees, investors and all those affected
  by our company's activities, that the reality of the contribution a
  business like ours can make to progress and a sustainable future is not
  completely obscured by a distorted perception. Like history, we have not
  been perfect. But history and economic development has brought to
  millions of people the benefits of real progress which Shell companies
  all around the world have been a significant part of that progress. And
  we intend to continue to be.
  Mark Moody-Stuart<BR>Chairman of The "Shell" Transport and Trading
  Company plc