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Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth vs Shell

Case overview

Date filed 25 January 2011
Current status Concluded
Issue Misleading disclosure by Shell on oil spills in Nigeria
Summary of the case Amnesty International and FoE allege that Royal Dutch Shell has breached the OECD Guidelines by making false, misleading and incomplete statements about incidents of sabotage to its operations and the sources of pollution in the Niger Delta.

Specifically, the complainants are concerned by Shells repeated claims about the high proportion of oil spills in the Niger Delta that are due to sabotage committed by criminal gangs. According to the complainants, the company provides misleading information and omits mentioning relevant facts about the causes of oil spills. Additionally, they claim that Shell bases its communications on biased and unverified information, thus failing to provide reliable and relevant information to external stakeholders.

The complainants are concerned that Shells use of inaccurate and misleading figures on sabotage has serious negative consequences for the communities of the Niger Delta. For example, when spills are classified as the result of sabotage, Shell has no liability or responsibility to pay compensation for damage done to people or their livelihoods. In addition, the complainants claim that Shell uses these figures to deflect criticism of its own environmental and human rights impact in the Niger Delta, misleading key stakeholders including consumers and investors.
Developments/Outcome Based on its initial assessment of the complaint, the Dutch NCP accepted the case in February 2011. Shell headquarters initially tried to distance itself from the Nigerian operations and referred the NCP to the local subsidiary. However, the NCP insisted that the parent company must take responsibility and exert its influence over subsidiaries to ensure that they are abiding by the Guidelines. Shell headquarters eventually agreed to take part in the mediation. In total, two joint mediated meetings and several bilateral meetings were held. Under pressure from Shell, Milieudefensie agreed to step back from the mediation to facilitate the process.

One of the main stumbling blocks in the negotiations was Shells demand that the complainants issue guarantees that they would not publicly disclose information related to the pre-2011 oil spills that were to be discussed. The complainants responded that though they did not have any plans to campaign on the cases and that they were committed to the NCPs confidentiality procedure, they could not guarantee that they would not communicate with the Nigerian communities about the cause of the oil spills. This impasse proved insurmountable for the dialogue.

Throughout the process, the complainants repeatedly expressed serious concern that the Dutch NCP allowed Shell to dictate the parameters for the dialogue, which effectively left unaddressed all past harm done to the people of the Niger Delta as a result of Shells flawed statements.

Following the unsuccessful mediation attempt, the Dutch NCP issued a final statement in June 2013 finding that Shells statements on the oil spills were based on flawed investigations and disputed evidence. The NCP furthermore found that Shells general communication with stakeholders about the percentage of oil spills caused by sabotage was flawed. However, the NCP did not explicitly conclude that Shells failures constituted a breach of the Guidelines, nor did the NCP evaluate what the impact of Shells flawed statements on the local communities had been.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
Case keywords Environment, Energy sector, Disclosure of information, Multiple NCPs

NCP Information

NCP name National Contact Point Netherlands
NCP address Den Haag, Netherlands
NCP website
Other NCPs involved



Company Information

Company responsible Koninklijke Nederlandsche Petroleum Maatschappij
Company address Carel van Bylandtlaan 30
2596 HR Den Haag
Company website
Company in violation Koninklijke Nederlandsche Petroleum Maatschappij
Country of operations Nigeria
Other companies involved

Timeline of developments

Date Actor Action Description Document
26 June 2013 Koninklijke Nederlandsche Petroleum Maatschappij letter Response Shell to concerns raised in press release complainants download pdf (7Kb)  
26 June 2013 National Contact Point Netherlands letter Response NCP to concerns raised in press release complainants download pdf (7Kb)  
19 June 2013 National Contact Point Netherlands statement Dutch NCP issues final statement. download pdf (5549Kb)  
19 June 2013 FoE Nederland press release Complainants issue press release about Dutch NCP's final statement. download pdf (82Kb)  
23 February 2011 National Contact Point Netherlands accept Dutch NCP accepts complaint download pdf (88Kb)  
25 January 2011 Amnesty International International Secretariat press release Press release on the complaint download pdf (116Kb)  
25 January 2010 Amnesty International International Secretariat file Complaint filed at Dutch and UK NCPs download pdf (134Kb)  

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