Screengrab from Shell video

Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of women took part in marches and protests to celebrate International Women’s Day across the globe.

Right now, there are countless women courageously leading the fight against the oil industry. Some have become internationally famous, others have not. For example, in honor of Women’s Day, a 60-meter portrait of climate activist, Greta Thunberg, was painted in the UK last week.

Others plow on largely unseen. One of the most inspirational women fighting the industry is Esther Kiobel, who has pursued the oil giant Shell for a quarter of a century, over allegations that the company was complicit in the murder of her husband and eight others, including the celebrated play-wright, Ken Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria.

Esther, along with other widows of the Ogoni 9, is currently suing Shell in the Netherlands with a verdict expected later this year.

Last year, the District Court of The Hague finally heard crucial arguments in Esther’s case against Shell, including witnesses who argued that Shell bribed them to testify against Saro-Wiwa and others. The second witness to testify said simply: “Yes, Shell bribed me.”

On the 24th Anniversary of Saro-Wiwa and the others in November last year, I wrote that it was “appalling that Shell has not tried to bring closure to the issue by admitting guilt, paying compensation and adequately and promptly cleaning up its toxic mess and legacy in the Niger Delta, and in particular in Ogoni.”

I added: “But Shell is an arrogant indifferent beast, whose roots are embedded in the colonial exploitation of a country like Nigeria. Its staff are insulated from the real world by a corporate internal spin machine that propagates pro-Shell propaganda that the company is some kind of green pioneering company, not a corporate polluter or killer.”

Shell’s latest grotesque greenwashing propaganda was put out for International Women’s day, when the company rebranded its logo to “She’ll”, along with the tagline: “#Makethefuture gender balanced.”

The oil giant issued a “She’ll video” featuring some of Shell’s female employees. Carrie Philpott, president of agency Wunderman Thompson Atlanta, told Adweek that she hoped the campaign will “continue to position Shell as a brand that supports and is invested in [its] female workforce. International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to shed light on this issue and Shell’s commitment.”

Unsurprisingly, Shell’s PR move was widely mocked on Twitter and in the media, with one commentator on Vice saying this “stunt stood out for its cynicism and laziness.” Other Twitter users were equally damning too (see below).

Personally, I think a Shell executive should look Esther and the other widows in the eye and tell them it will pay for its corporate crimes of the past, and pay to clean up Ogoni in the Niger Delta too, before anyone can take it seriously about what the future really looks like.

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