9 June 2009

A Word in Your Shell-like

Today should surely see the hammering of the final nail into the coffin of the concept of CSR--corporate social responsibility. This trite phrase has always been a contradiction in terms and the implicit admission by oil-giant Shell of their collusion with the Nigerian government in the execution of 11 Ogoni activists including the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa tears away the remnants of the thin veil covering the naked greed of the global corporate elite.

Shell was a leading proponent of CSR, or a leading exponent of Greenwash , depending on your point of view. The global reach of the oil corporate's activities had left a similarly extensive trail of shame reaching all the way from the Niger delta to the North Sea, where Shell's attempt to dump the disused Brent Spar rig in the Atlantic was successfuly opposed by Greenpeace. Shell was also a founding member of the Global Climate Coalition, which fought against the evidence of climate change and may have ensured the extinction of the human species.

As a timely response of questionable scope Shell set up a Foundation and started distributing a tiny proportion of its profits to worthy causes, including environmental organisations naive enough to take the filthy lucre. Attempts to rebuild the company's reputation in Nigeria itself were particularly criticised. Health centres and schools were launched across the Niger delta, only to be left half finished when the TV cameras moved on.

The complaints by international leaders about the poor standards of governance that prevent African governments from improving the lives of their people are illuminated as the rankest hypocrisy by the story of the joint project by the Nigerian elite and Shell to serve their limited self-interest at the cost of the millions of Nigerians. The courage of Saro-Wiwa and his comrades in drawing the world's attention to these iniquities has been vindicated by the court judgment.

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