“When you’re as visible and accountable as Shell, you need advisors intimate with your external environment, sensitive to your culture and unafraid to question you. This requires uncompromising intellectual integrity. That’s what we’ve found in SustainAbility, whose team has accompanied us when we’ve broken new ground and challenged us when we have not – in both circumstances adding value to our thinking.”Niel Golightly, Vice President, Downstream Communications, Shell
Since 1997, SustainAbility has been a multi-faceted advisor to Royal Dutch Shell. Initially retained to help create and guide the vision, content and process behind Shell’s groundbreaking first sustainability report Profit and Principles – does there have to be a choice? issued in 1998 after Shell’s reputation and internal morale had suffered as a result of Brent Spar and human rights issues in Nigeria, SustainAbility now has engaged different Shell people and divisions on a range of sustainability issues over more than a decade.
SustainAbility has been a major influence on Shell in relation to transparency and reporting, helping the company understand and interpret evolving best practice, benchmarking numerous Shell reports using our Global Reporters methodology, and generally critiquing and improving formal Shell Sustainability Reports as well as other sustainability-related communications.
Since 2005 we have led the design and facilitation of Shell’s External Review Committee (ERC), a unique panel of global, expert, senior stakeholders. The ERC reviews and provides public comment (in the form of a letter published in the Report) on each Shell Sustainability Report while also conducting a dialog (in person, over three multiple-day visits to The Hague annually) about societal expectations for sustainability performance with Shell leaders. This includes members of the Shell Executive Committee, the Chief Executive and members of the Shell Board. In our experience, the ERC represents an unparalleled stakeholder-company forum.
SustainAbility has counseled Shell on a further range of issues including:
- Access to energy;
- Shell’s Three Hard Truths and the Scramble & Blueprints energy scenarios
- Alberta Oil Sands development and the implications of high-carbon fuels generally; and,
- Innovative demand management strategies.
Commencing in late 2012, we have been working with Shell to better understand and address the stress-nexus of energy, water and food and the ways the stress-nexus is aggravated by climate change. The project aims to find innovative ways to combat the stress-nexus in urban environments, with the intention that Shell, in partnership with local government and civil society partners, will undertake a pilot based on the options in a single major city in North America, in part to determine what replication potential exists for cities generally.
In the complex world of energy, our relationship with Shell has been purposely challenging on both sides, with the tensions caused by honest differences in points of view resulting in some of the most concrete gains. SustainAbility’s insights and skills have helped Shell navigate the shifting landscape of society’s expectations of private sector sustainability performance. At the same time, our own beliefs and frameworks have been tested and strengthened through our engagement with the many serious, inquiring and committed Shell team members alongside whom we have worked.