The oil and gas industry operates in some of the most challenging places in the world and faces complex environmental and human rights-related issues both at home and abroad.
Ensuring good human rights policy and practice, both internally and externally, is a critical issue. While individual governments bear the primary responsibility to protect and promote respect for human rights, businesses need to play a key a role in promoting human rights and environmentally sustainable operations. Whilst the majority of oil and gas companies now view corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues as important for their reputation, ‘licence to operate’ and access to future business, implementation of best practice ‘on the ground’ can often be highly variable with significant negative impact on local communities. Company processes and management weaknesses can cause, and often exacerbate, infringement of human rights.
ECCR has had regular involvement in the oil sector. In 1994 a Roman Catholic sister contacted ECCR about Shell’s impact in the Niger Delta. ECCR research began and a question was asked at the company’s AGM leading to ECCR/Shell dialogue. In 1997 we jointly submitted a shareholder resolution raising questions about the environmental and human rights impacts of the company’s operations in Ogoni, Nigeria. The Chemical Engineer commented: `A new political era is emerging … [the resolution] could signal a change in the way multinational companies … do business throughout the world.’ In 2001, an ECCR delegation visited Nigeria to check on progress since the 1997 shareholder resolution.
More recently we have been supporting the Stakeholders Alliance for Corporate Accountability (SACA) led by Father Kevin from the Kiltegan Fathers UK Order of the St. Patrick’s Mission Society as SACA continues to work in the Niger Delta on a research and evaluation project, to bring insight and understanding into the strengths and weaknesses of Shell’s Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) process.
We participated with others in the ‘Aiming for A’ coalition in the successful BP & Shell shareholder special resolutions to direct the companies to additional annual reporting in relation to the management of the companies’ carbon footprint and responsiveness to climate change issues.