More greenwashing from Shell. The company has just released it Sustainability report for 2005. Shell and sustainability you might reason is a contradiction in terms. Not so, argues the company. The report is part of is “continuing dialogue with stakeholders,” and its commitment to meet the world’s energy challenge in “in environmentally and socially responsible ways”. But it’s not hard to unpick the spin from the reality.

Three quick examples for you:

Nigeria: In the report, Shell’s CEO Jeroen van der Veer says that “last year I saw the real willingness of Shell people to listen, to learn, and to work with stakeholders, sometimes in very challenging conditions. In Nigeria, for example, we made good progress in the programme to end continuous flaring, and continued to improve our community development activities, by working more closely with local people and development experts”.

Van der Veer goes on to offer his regrets at the deteriorating security situation, but does not acknowledge Shell’s own role in that situation. For example, in 2003, Shell’s own consultants concluded that the way it operates “creates, feeds into, or exacerbates conflict” and that “after over 50 years in Nigeria” Shell had become “an integral part of the Niger Delta conflict system” .

Earlier in the year in Nigeria, there was a spate of hostage taking. One of the demands of the hostages was that Shell pay £1.5 billion for pollution in Bayelsa State. This payment had been ordered by the Nigerian courts but still Shell refuses to pay. Shell refuses to pay the communities but it does pay the military who suppress the communities. And so the cycle of violence continues.

Sakhalin. Shell’s operations in Sakhalin off the eastern Russian coast are causing huge controversy. According to van der Veer, “The massive Sakhalin II project in Russia also showed a real commitment to working with others, from independent whale experts to local indigenous people. The project took important steps to reduce impacts and respond to stakeholders’ concerns”. Sounds good, doesn’t it.

Log on to Sakhalin Environment Watch and you will see that the company is currently being sued doe to its environmental impact.

According to WWF, “After spending months talking with the world’s whale experts, Shell has ignored their advice and gone ahead with installing the platform for its Sakhalin II oil project”

In April 2006, WWF released a study into Shell’s spill preparedness on Sakhalin. It said there was a “huge response gap” between what was needed and what Shell could deliver.

“If a major blowout, pipeline release, or tanker spill were to occur during the six months when dynamic ice conditions prevail, the likelihood of an effective cleanup is extremely low. Most or all of the spilled oil could become bound up in the ice pack and re-released to the environment with spring melt. The potential for this oil to contaminate the whales’ feeding grounds is very real; such contamination may persist for years, perhaps irreparably damaging an extremely vulnerable sub-species”.

Climate: In Shell’s Sustainability report, there are pages and pages about what Shell is doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However the company also admits it is heavily involved in the Canadian Tar /oil sands project. This is where oil is extracted from sand – a hugely energy intensive and dirty project which will be devastating to the local and global environment.

So reconcile this: “Shell Canada intends to expand its oil sands operation, nearly doubling production to 280,000 barrels per day by 2010”.

With this: According to a recent report on tar sands, “the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of synthetic crude oil production from the oil sands is significantly higher than the average intensity to produce conventional oil in Canada. Therefore, as increasing production of synthetic crude oil from the oil sands offsets the decline of conventional oil, the net GHG emissions from the oil industry are set to rise dramatically”.

So Shell how do you reconcile that one? You are trying to look clean, but your hands are dirty. Very dirty.