Yesterday it was internal criticism of Shell’s Nigerian operations. Today it is external criticism.
A new report by the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) argues that Shell can improve its negative social and environmental impacts in the Niger Delta.
Based on case studies researched and written by five civil society organisations working in the Niger Delta, the report raises serious concerns about Shell’s operations in relation to international social and environmental standards, pollution levels, communities’ health and livelihoods, and the right of local people to a say in decisions that affect their lives.
The ECCR argues that the oil giant should take both prompt and longer-term action to reduce its corporate impact.
These actions should include an immediate end to gas flaring, the provision of sustainable drinking water for communities, action to replace ageing pipelines, and commencement of a major environmental audit and rehabilitation programme.
This call to end gas flaring echoes those made last year by the Shell Guilty coalition as well as the call last week from Shell’s own staff.
Longer term, the report calls for continuous human rights training for Shell’s Nigerian staff, greater respect for principles of open dialogue and community consent, independent monitoring and effective grievance mechanisms. Senior Shell staff remuneration should be linked to progress on human rights and environmental challenges in the Delta, ECCR says.
‘The case studies in our report identify opportunities for Shell to do things better in the Niger Delta,’ says ECCR Co-ordinator Miles Litvinoff, who edited the report. ‘After years of unresolved community tensions, Shell could reap benefits by making accountability to local people a higher priority.’
The ECCR argues that even if Shell “rigorously implemented” its own General Business Principles, it “would go some way to meet these concerns.”
The recommendations in full are:
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.
How many more reports urging Shell to act will happen before the company finally does so?