Friday, 8 February 2013
In 1995 Shell announced that it would dispose of the run-down Brent Spar platform by dumping it in the sea. A hole would be blown in the structure, and it would sink to the bottom of the ocean.
A public outcry followed. Conservationists, naturalists and millions of ordinary people in the UK and abroad protested against Shell's Brent Spar plans, which were seen by many as a lack of corporate responsibility, and general disregard for the natural world in the name of profit.
Despite support for Shell's plans from the British Government, people started to boycott Shell service stations and products. People went somewhere else to buy their petrol, which is bad news for a company that makes a large portion of its profit selling fuel.
In Germany, Shell lost 30% of its turn-over, while the company at the height of the boycott lost millions every day. On top of the financial damage, Shell suffered a fatal blow to its corporate image, which is lasting to this day.
At the time, I was part one of those who decided to boycott Shell. And I still don't buy my fuel from Shell if I can help it.
I know that Shell is run by a different management team now. And I know they have green policies and is working to reduce their CO2 emissions and general impact on the world.
Great, but I am still not prepared to let them off the hook.
The sinking of the platform would have cost Shell just £4.5m. But in the end, the loss of income and dismantling of the platform on land cost Shell over £60m.
Could it happen again today? Yes, and it does, all the time.
Think about fair-trade products. People want farmers in poor countries to be paid a fair price for their crops, and people don't want to see all the profit going to big multi-national organisations.
As they say: With great power comes great responsibility - so make sure you use your Consumer Power wisely.