Shell Oil Company has its origin in the sea shells. In 1833, a trader by the name of Marcus Samuel opened and operated an enterprise in London that specialized in antiques and sea shells. These products were being bought by historians for decoration purposes. Marcus was later joined by his son in the business. As he traveled in search of shells at the coast of Caspian Sea, Marcus recognized an opportunity of exporting oil to this area to be used for cooking and in lamps. He thus set his ambition, and in 1882, he commissioned the first oil tanker and in a period of 15 years, Shell Company merged with another Dutch company and formed the first oil conglomerate company in the world. Today, Shell is the world’s second largest oil company comprising of a network of close to a thousand companies and two thousand joint ventures operating in over 135 countries.
According to Estrada, Javier, Kristian Tangen and Helge Ole Bergesen (1997), leading oil Companies for long had an awful public image and standing being criticized for maintaining monopoly and making enormous profits, causing accidents and their devastating impact on the environment and human health. However, the 1980’s, oil companies have come up to improve their public image through expanding their agenda to include environmental sustainability and according to the business principles that shell company upholds, it is committed to conducting business as responsible members of the society and to observe the laws of the country in which the company operates its business. Accordingly, in the year 2000 the company spent 85 million USD on social responsibility in terms of sponsoring education and provision of medical services among other services, with the largest share going to Africa and the Middle East. Shell Company has also played an active role in eradicating poverty in countries where it operates through increasing oil revenues distributed to local communities. This has been done in Nigeria through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
However, these gains and activities come at a great cost as the Company’s activities have caused serious environmental degradation which has affected the community negatively. There have been several oil spills from the areas of operation of the company, discharge of production waste, and air pollution are just but a few of the environmental damage. This has led to a negative impact on the health of the people in such communities. The above involvement has been as a result of ethical concerns of which the Statement of General Business Principles by Shell Company provides for the Upholding of the Company’s reputation as being paramount. Shell Company also embraces the importance of maintaining trust and confidence of its employees, customers, and shareholders as well as the communities in which it operates as a social initiative. The desire to contribute to the common good has also been a drive for the Company’s involvement and responsibility to the community. Humanitarian corporate social responsibility makes companies such as shell engage themselves past preventing what they have done in the societies they operate in.
Shell’s social initiative has, however, resulted into commercialized conflicts in some of the areas where the company operates such as the Nembe region in Nigeria, where some groups have persistently fought over these social benefits it has fueled corruption and embezzlement of funds provided by the company and community governance destroyed because a handful of groups has been taking chieftaincy powers in order to get some of the benefits provided by the shell Company.
1. Estrada, J. Et al. (1997): Manageable or revolutionary? Environmental challenges confronting the oil industry. London: Wiley & Sons.
2. Shell, (1998). Business and human rights. A management primer. London: Shell.