Archived press release
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Oil giant Shell is still putting short-term profit before people and the environment, despite its public commitment to a "green" future [2], according to a shocking new report launched today to coincide with the company's London AGM [3].

Failing the challenge: The Other Shell Report (PDF† - 300K) mimics Shell's own social and environmental reports but has been jointly published by Friends of the Earth and a coalition of community groups [4]. It contains first hand testimonies from communities living next door to Shell in the US, the Philippines, South Africa, Nigeria, Argentina and China and catalogues the environmental damage, the health problems and the impacts of accident these communities face.

But the report also shows how inadequate current UK company law is in protecting local people and the environment from UK companies who profit at the expense of people's health and the natural world.

Eight years ago, Shell committed itself to sustainable development and the company promoted its green image to the world. But as people living next door to Shell will tell directors at the company's AGM, the reality is a far cry from the green promises in glossy brochures and advertising campaigns - Shell is failing the sustainability challenge.

Friends of the Earth has enabled Hope Esquillo Tura to travel to Shell's AGM to represent the United Front to Oust Oil Depots in the Philippines. She is campaigning for the closure of Shell's oil and gas depots in the Manilan suburb of Pandacan, where 330 million litres of crude oil, diesel and aviation fuel are stored opposite a high school in the heart of the community. Leaks and fires at the depots have resulted in hundreds of residents being hospitalised over the years, and two years ago, Manila City Council ordered the depots to close. But following negotiations with the council, the depots are still open, leaving the community at risk.

Ms. Esquillo Tura said:

"Shell officials claim to be law-abiding, yet they continue to operate in complete defiance of a law which states that they cease and desist their operations. We cannot compromise the rights of the majority of the people of Manila to live peacefully and secured just because of socio-civic projects given to the communities by Shell. No amount of money can compensate for the lives that will be lost and the irreparable damage to succeeding generations should an accident or attack happen here."

Hilton Kelly, a community leader from Port Arthur, Texas, will also be at the AGM, facilitated by the Refinery Reform Campaign. He lives near Shell's Port Arthur Refinery, which is surrounded by homes, schools and churches in an area known as "gasoline alley" to locals. Shell reported 56 major accidents, process upsets and fires or explosions at the refinery in 2002 and just last week, an incident resulted in five tons of sulphur dioxide being released with gas flaring and black smoke covering the town for eight hours. Local people suffer exceptionally high rates of heart disease and respiratory problems.

Mr Kelly said:

"Shell's top management from London needs to come to Port Arthur and help correct the problems that create a health burden on their neighbours. Because of the pervasive pattern of racism here in the South, we cannot get the local managers of Shell to take the action needed."

Durban, South Africa, is home to South Africa's largest refinery, the South African Petroleum Refinery, jointly owned by Shell and BP. The complex is in south Durban, in an area that is home to low income black, Indian and mixed-race communities, and where health problems including cancer and respiratory diseases are common. Much of the complex is old, and leaks and spills frequently occur.

Desmond D'Sa, Chairperson of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said:

"In South Durban multi-nationals like Shell are above the law. Only citizens who break the speed limits are prosecuted. Multinationals like Shell who pollute and violate citizens constitutional right to a healthy environment have never been prosecuted. We in South Durban call on Shell management not to abuse their power to subvert the law above the ordinary citizens equal rights that are enshrined in the South African Constitution."

Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper said:

"Eight years ago we congratulated Shell on its commitment towards sustainable development. Despite the fine words in mountains of glossy brochures, however, it is clear that the company continues to profit at the expense of people and the environment. Shell must start putting substance before message and spin, and address the concerns of local people in all of the countries where it works, not just here today in the glare of publicity, but everyday, everywhere.

"Shell is just one example of how UK plc operates around the world, putting profit before principle with devastating effects for local people and the environment. Patricia Hewitt must change UK company law and make British companies fully accountable for the damage they cause."

Notes

[1] Community representatives attending the Shell AGM and press conference include Hope Esquillo-Tura, United Front to Oust Oil Depots, from the Philippines; Oronto Douglas, Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Desmond D'Sa, chair person of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Durban, South Africa; Hilton Kelley, Director of the Community In-power and Development Association, Port Arthur, Texas; Margie Richard, Concerned Citizens of Norco, Louisiana, USA; Judith Robinson, Environmental Health Fund, USA; Denny Larson, Refinery Reform Campaign, USA. Contact details are available from Friends of the Earth.

[2] The company committed itself to "sustainable development" in 1995.

[3] Shell's AGM in London will take place at the QE2 Centre, Westminster at 11am,Wednesday 23rd April and also in The Hague, Netherlands where Friends of the Earth Netherlands will be holding a simultaneous protest.

[4] Failing the challenge: The Other Shell Report 2002 was written and researched by Lisa Rimmer for Friends of the Earth with the help of the Refinery Reform Campaign (USA), groundWork South Africa, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, South African Exchange Program on Environmental Justice, Fundacion Ala Plastica (Argentina), Global Community Monitor (USA) and FreeTibet Campaign.


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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust