Institutional investor group calls on Shell and Total to cease Syria operations

Institutional investors from the $3trn Conflict Risk Network (CRN) have called on oil firms including Royal Dutch Shell and Total to cease their operations in strife-torn Syria.

The group – comprising Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Asset Management, Domini Social Investments, Capricorn Investment Group and research firm GES Investment Services – is calling on 11 listed oil firms to either halt their Syria operations or take other steps in response to the Assad government’s crackdown on civilian protestors.

Apart from Shell and Total, the companies include Gulfsands Petroleum (UK), INA Industrija DD (Croatia), Maurel ET Prom (France), MENA Hydrocarbons Inc. (Canada), Petofi (UK), Saipem (Italy), Sinochem (China), Suncor Energy (Canada) and Tatneft (Russia).

“With the collapse of primary sectors of the Syrian economy, companies in the oil sector now represent an increased and essential proportion of funding and fuel that is sustaining the Syrian government,” CRN said in a statement.

It added that reports of damage to pipelines suggest the companies may be being targeted directly due to their affiliation with the regime.“It’s time for companies to speak out against the violence in Syria,” said Constantina Bichta, Principal ESG Researcher at Boston Common Asset Management.

“The companies’ financial support of the government links them to the regime’s ongoing human rights abuses. And under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies must show they are respecting human rights and act towards mitigating human rights impacts even if they have not contributed directly to them.”

In June, peace group IKV Pax Christi called for Shell to cease its operations in Syria, arguing that the oil major was a “key associate” of the state oil company.

Melany Grout, Director of Conflict Risk Network, said: “Companies must address not just physical risks to their operations, but whether they are inadvertently aiding the perpetrator.”

The latest intervention follows earlier engagements over Libya and Sudan.
The CRN network includes more than 100 institutions such as pension funds, asset managers, university endowments and foundations.