Shell is a great example of an extremely clever, well-organized company with an incredible PR department. Before you start calling me a neo-liberal; I am not necessarily against government intervention. In fact, I wish there was a government strong enough to dissolve Shell or at least put it under administration.
In the 1980s, along with Derk Sauer, I already unveiled how Shell and Esso profited from several shady constructions they set up that allowed them to sell natural gas to themselves at far below market value. That disclosure cost them billions at the time. We showed how Shell and 6 other multinational sister companies faked an-oil crisis, and I made a film in which I showed how Shell stopped key innovations in the solar panels industry in the 80’s. In the years that followed, the scandals just kept piling up (Brent Spar, Nigeria). Shell was looking for and found the right way to deal with this kind of negative publicity. The scoops barely made a dent in Shell’s image, thanks to its fantastic PR machine.
Whenever Shell has to pay for the mistakes it made, it usually finds a way to earn that money back some other way. Be it via higher prices or margins, the profits do not suffer. Scarcity of resources? No problem. The lower the supply, the higher the price and the profit. Taxes? Not for Shell. They have made profitable tax exemption deals in several countries. On conferences and meetings about sustainability, Shell talks and talks about how the company will create renewable energy in the future. But that future seems to be starting only after all the oil and gas have run out.
A perfect business model, right?
On Monday, I wrote about how not politics but the global economic system will determine our future. When it comes to the change that is necessary in order to secure our future for the generations to come, it is logical to look at those places in society that do really work on securing that change. It is wrong (and old-fashioned left) to judge all businesses by one standard, while so much is happening there in the area of preservation, circular production and innovative change. Look at the B Corporations, a club of companies that are writing a new moral code. Look at the many inspiring entrepreneurs who believe that a clean, caring and secure future trumps profit. Then even the most dark conspiracy thinker can’t help but smile a little.
This post is also available in: Dutch