Shell activities in Nigeria began in 1914 under colonial rule, and discovered Oil in the Niger-delta by 1958. They continued oil and gas exploration, in a merger with the Nigerian government’s oil corporation NNPC (55%), Total Nigeria (10%) and NAOC (5%), in the region. The discovery transformed of Oil transformed the country’s political economy, as it accounted for 90% of foreign-exchange earning. The operations yielded high profits for both Shell and the Nigerian government made up of mostly the major ethnic tribe in the country.
Unfortunately, the people of the Niger-delta became impoverished as the proceeds from oil explorations, were not adequately shared as the indigenes in the Niger-Delta are ethnic minorities, did not receive fair share of the revenue generated. The locals were further left in a worst situation than when Shell began operating in the area, as the local were subjected to loss of land and poverty, which the multinational ignored, leaving social responsibilities to the government.
To make matters worst, these locals had lost their livelihoods of fishing and farming, to pollution resulted from Shell operation such as flaring, land and sea pollution through spillages, emission. Most Ogoni people peacefully protested against their deplorable situation, under a movement called Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP lead by Ken Saro-Wiwa. While a few frustrated locals turn to militancy for a resolve and began destroying shell properties.
In 1997, under the then military government, in the interest of oil companies, the protests which were gaining momentum was targeted, as members were torture, imprisoned and in some cases murdered. Eventually, Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 of the leaders of MOSOP, was arrested and charge with murder and sentenced along side his co-defendants to death, in what some criticised as a dubious case, then eventually killed despite international plea. Shell suffered a backlash as a result from the international community, as they believed to have ignored the case and let the execution in the millions was the result.
According to Kantian Ethics is wrong, as keeping quite about a situation can be deemed as lying. The corporation in response changed their approach to CSR and in addition to philanthropically gestures, released annual sustainability reports on their positive approach to CSR. Situation Shell’s approach to socially responsibility is portrayed to be in the right direction, however economist such Milton Friedman (1970) may dispute corporation from being able to have responsibility and they only duty is to generates profit for shareholders. Fisher ; Lovell (2006) noted the three criticism of which the third is relevant to as.
“The third criticism as a philosophical one. It was that corporations cannot possess responsibilities” (Fisher ; Lovell, 2006 pg. 312) However, criticism by NGOs and activists are that the company’s approach has is not enough, as the situation soon turned deplorable in the region in the 2000s. And calls for the company to face its responsibilities, which ultimately gives Shell corporate citizenship are on the increase. However, citizenship status only does not imply much about morality according to Fisher & Lovell (2006), and in the context of corporate citizenship, Wood and Logson (2001) referred
“One important debate distinguishes the concept of citizenship-as-legal status from the concept of citizen-as-desirable-activity. The minimum requirements to be called a citizen are very different from the requirement to be called a ‘good citizen'” (Wood & Logsdon, 2001: 88) So if in any case the title of citizenship, was given Shell, then it will have been a bad citizen, has its operation had caused death and harm to humanity, which is breaking the law. And Friedman did not argue corporations should be above the law according as stated by Fisher & Lovell (2006, pg. 312).
However, the company was never deemed a corporate citizen hence the only set back was the backlash from the international community, which motivated a change in approach to social responsibilities, rather than leaving the social issues n the grounds which they operate in to the government, which showed signs of societal responsibilities. Charles Lindblom (1977) concluded; “It has been a curious feature of democratic theory that it has not faced up to the private corporation in an ostensible democracy. Enormously large, rich in resources… they can insist that government meet their demands, even if these demands run counter to… citizens…
Moreover they do not disqualify powers… the large private corporation fits oddly into democratic theory and vision . Indeed it does not fit” (Lindblom, 1977: 356) Highlighted by Fisher & Lovell (2006, pg 298), in Lindblom (1997) analysis of the relationship, between corporations and government. Which was a change in approach to CSR, from the 1990s, and the report acts of philanthropy in the sustainability reports, which have given the company been positive for the company has its “adds-value” to the brand image. And from a Friedmanite point, is permitted, supported by Porter & Kramer (2002) referring to such act as “Strategic Philanthropy”.
Despite this change in approach, the plight of the people of the Niger delta still prevails, and the company as yet not been able to resolve the situation, whilst some criticised the new approach of publishing the sustainability report as a ploy to cover up their action. The 2000s witnessed a rise, in kidnapping in the region and unrest, which Shell profited from as those incidences drove the prices of petrol high. Hence, some may argue it is beneficial for the company, for the resolve of the situation to be prolonged. Conclusion
The people of the Niger-Delta appear to be exploited by Shell and the Nigerian government, which from a Kantian Perspective is immoral. Whilst a virtue ethic approach would reflect the positive behaviours of Shell in their approach to CSR as virtuous, as a Rawlsain notions of justice in the context of the plight of the Niger-delta people upon each member of the society being entitled to the same civil and political rights, in addition. The Rawls’ principle as stated by Barry (1989: 184) “… but with economic inequalities being arranged so that there is no way in which the least advantage stratum in the society could do any better”
(Barry 1989: 184) Leading to Further criticism, of the approaches of Shell, as the Ogoni people, who in an economic equality appear to be doing the worst, when rather that should have been better off. Hence, in examining the approach to CSR by Shell, more responsibilities should be taken. But it can’t be ignored that Shell realised their cost the threat pose by ethical violations, hence change in approach was necessary, which re-enforces the importance o social responsibility to multinational corporations.
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