MEPs campaign to step up corporate responsibility

Socialist and Green MEPs have pointed to the failings of the purely voluntary approach to CSR currently applied in Europe to urge the Commission to impose binding rules.

Community leaders from Nigeria, South Africa, the Philippines, the Netherlands Antilles, and the United States gave accounts of alleged corporate misconduct and environmental abuses of oil giant Shell at a press conference in Parliament on 29 June. 

The leaders gave accounts of heavy air pollution and chemical waste caused by Shell’s oil refineries, which they say cause abnormally high rates of asthma and cancer within their communities. 

All said such behaviour would simply not be tolerated in Europe where environmental laws are much stricter and where Shell advertises itself as a company supporting the development of renewable energies. 

NGO Friends of the Earth (FOE) claims that Shell has "done little to improve the situation for people locally" and improve the situation of local populations living with "the daily impact of pollution from refineries, leaking pipelines and oil spills, which damage their health and the environment". FOE's "other Shell report", presented on 28 June, illustrated the situation in nine different countries. 

"This will not change until we have binding rules to hold our companies accountable for their operations around the world," said MEPs Turmes and Howitt pointing that EU policies on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) have been insufficient to solve the problem.

Turmes and Howitt called for a more stringent CSR policy in advance of a planned Commission communication on the issue in September this year.

In a statementShell writes that it welcomes input on the company's performance and that it is "open to challenge and criticism". But it adds that claims that the company is "doing nothing and damaging the health of communities" are "just not correct". "We reject any links to human rights abuses in Nigeria or elsewhere," the statement read.

The conference was held at the invitation of MEPs Richard Howitt (PES) and Claude Turmes (Greens/EFA) and was the occasion for green NGO Friends of the Earth to present its alternative Shell report. Entitled "Lessons not learned", the report is an answer to Shell's own 2004 report which boasts progress made by the company in contributing to sustainable development.

  • September 2005: Commission communication on CSR

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