Shell: Influence / Lobbying

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Royal Dutch/Shell group and its subsidiaries belong to a large number of lobbying organisations and have substantial access to government, particularly in the UK and the Netherlands.

  • Global Climate Coalition Like most of its fellow oil companies and a number of industry associations, Shell was formerly a member of the Global Climate Coalition (GCC): The coalition heavily lobbied governments and mounted persuasive advertising campaigns in the US to turn public opinion against concrete action on greenhouse gas emissions. The so called 'carbon club' led the way in undermining public support for action to curb climate change.

After Heinz Rothermund's speech in May 1997, questioning to what degree our climate could withstand the burning of known hydrocarbon reserves.[1] In 1998 Shell followed BP and left the GCC. By early 2000 Texaco and others were joining the movement away from the GCC. While the GCC was an overt lobby against action on climate change, since it was sidelined, other lobby groups have come to the fore which are more subtle in their tactics.

  • World Business Council for Sustainable Development As a multinational which attempts to maintain the ethical high ground, Shell takes a leading position within the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).[2] Senior members of Royal Dutch/Shell Group wear their WBCSD hat, for example at the UN's COP climate summits.[3]
  • Business Roundtable The president of Royal Dutch and Chairman of Shell are entitled to sit at the Business Roundtable,[4] an association who examine public issues that affect the economy []. The association, which represents over 200 companies, ran a series of newspaper advertisements timed to precede an address by President Clinton to its annual meeting in June 1997. The adverts called for a climate policy "balanced" between economy and environment.[5] The roundtable's position is explained in Rush to Judgment: A Primer on Global Climate Change, available on the group's website.[6]
  • Centre for European Policy Studies Shell also holds a position within the Centre for European Policy Studies[7] (CEPS) ( which hosted a special meeting on climate change, on the eve of COP6 bis, the resumed international negotiations on the future of the Kyoto Protocol (Bonn, July 16-27, 2000). The meeting launched a new CEPS working party on "Emissions trading and the new EU climate-change policy" which will be chaired by Charles Nicholson of fellow oil giants BP.[8]

ICC promotes free trade and the market economy with the conviction that "trade is a powerful force for peace and prosperity".[12] ICC aims to be a forum where business can agree voluntary rules to govern world trade in the hope that this image of responsible industry self-regulation will persuade governments not to interfere. It proved so successful in this that within a year of the creation of the United Nations, ICC was granted consultative status at the UN.[13]

Shell in the United States, and over 300 other American corporations belong to USCIB who are involved in lobbying the US government. The council was founded in 1945 "to promote an open system of world trade, investment and finance".[14] Other prominent members of the council include: BP, the American Petroleum Institute, Coca-Cola, Chevron (oil Co.), Dupont (see Corporate Watch profile), General Electric, General Motors, Ford, McDonalds, Mobil, Monsanto, Nestle USA, Philip Morris (tobacco), Texaco (oil) and Unilever. The USCIB is the US affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE). Most significantly USCIB chairs the expert-group of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).[15]

  • European Chemical Industry Council The company is a member of the European Chemical Industry Council who brand themselves as "both the forum and the voice of the European chemical industry."[16] CEFIC represents, directly or indirectly, about 40,000 chemical companies in Europe, companies which account for more than 30 per-cent of world chemicals production.[17]

CEFIC represents large corporations such as Shell and represents smaller companies through the national chemical industry federations of 25 European countries.[18]

The federation's offices are in Brussels, where CEFIC was incorporated in 1972 as "an international association with scientific objectives."[19] but science is inseparable from politics and CEFIC lobbies the European Commission extensively on behalf of its members' interests.

Perhaps most worrying is CEFICs position in support of the WTOs TRIPs agreement on intellectual property which will bring patent laws into new areas, allowing the patenting of natural resources as if they were new ideas. For CEFIC's position.[20]

  • Global Compact - A member of the Shell board was among the senior officers of 50 major companies present at the formal launch of the UN Global Compact on July 26, 2000. The compact was first mooted by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a speech to the Davos World Economic Forum in January 1999. The compact between the UN and business aims to uphold values in human rights, labour standards and environmental practice. The Compact is open for adherence by any company, large or small, no formalities are involved and no formal proof is required that the companies are upholding the compact but companies are asked to demonstrate their adherence by taking corporate action to support the values of the Compact.[21]
  • The European Roundtable of Industrialists The European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT), which includes Phil Watts of 'Shell Transport and Trading'.[22] is a club of 48 captains of industry, drawn from the largest European multinationals. With privileged access to EU and national decision-makers the roundtable has been at the forefront in promoting industry self-regulation over government-enforceable mechanisms. ERT Environment Working Group released a report on climate change in mid-October 2000, prior to COP6 in the Hague: "Climate Change: How Government and Industry can Work Together".[23]

CSR-Lobbying nexus

The CSR-Lobbying network

Influencing Research and Education

BP has a working relationship with the following universities. These are key institutions, providing graduates to the oil industry. Many courses, particularly in the field of geology, receive funding from one or more oil companies: Imperial College, Aberdeen University, Cambridge University, Robert Gordon University, Edinburgh University and Kings College (London). Shell in the UK recruits heavily from these universities. For more details of the oil industries involvement in higher education see Corporate Watch's forthcoming briefing 'Degrees of Capture' or contact People & Planet about their 'Slick Protest' campaign.[24]

Links With Government

Shell is represented on a number of government QUANGOs in the UK: the Renewable Energy Taskforce, Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment, Oil and Pipelines Agency (within the Ministry of Defence), Funding agency for Schools, Sustainable Development Education Panel, Lambeth Education Action Zone (London), and the European Environmental Agency.

PR Companies

Shell uses a number of advertising agencies, these are: Fishburn Hedges, J. Walter Thompson, Burdett Martin and Publicis Focus. Shell's public relations consultants are: Shandwick International and Associates in Advertising. Royal Dutch/Shell has also used other companies and a number of the trade associations to which it belongs as environmental or community relations consultants.

In 1992 Shell began to sponsor the Houston-Open golf tournament which was a major advertising coup for the group. The tournament has, since then donated 7.2 million dollars to local charities.[25]

In 1998 Shell launched its 'Count on Shell' campaign, ( a significant marketing push in the US, offering safety advice to motorists as well as promoting Shell products. The launch coincided with a major advertising campaign tied in to US TV coverage of the 1998 winter Olympic games.[26]


In the face of current public hostility towards Esso (See:, Shell is making renewed efforts (December 2001) to differentiate itself from the dirty dog of the industry. A series of newspaper adverts[27] portray Shell as a caring, listening company - part of an already established public face for the company, for example with its community-aware "Flares out in 2008" program in Nigeria.[28] This public face ignores the group's ambitious targets for increased production of fossil fuels.

Shell has further greened its image by being seen to talk with NGOs (Non-Govenmental Organisations) most notably and most controversially Amnesty International.

Further Info


  1. Heinz Rothermund, Speaking at the 1997 Celebrity Lecture for the Institute of Petroleum at Strathclyde University, 20 May 1997
  3. For details of WBCSD's position on climate change:
  5. Originally at: Accessible from the Internet Archive at:
  6. Originally at: Accessible from the Internet Archive at:
  20. see:
  26. [
  27. eg: Evening Standard (London) Tuesday 20 November 2001, p14
  28. The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, 2000 People and the Environment Annual Report, p38