Robeco closes dialogue with Royal Dutch Shell on Niger delta oil spills after lengthy engagement

Fund manager says oil giant has shown good progress

Robeco, the Netherlands-based fund manager with €268.1bn under management, says it has come to a successful close of its engagement with Royal Dutch Shell on pollution in the Niger Delta in Ogoniland, Nigeria.

Robeco started engaging with Shell in 2005 on a range of issues and says that, over the years, the oil giant has “seriously improved its responsiveness, has taken decisive action, and is showing good progress on our engagement objectives”.

In 2010 and 2011, the Rotterdam-based investor – now majority owned by Japan’s ORIX – started the engagement with Shell on two UN Global Compact breaches: oil spills in the Niger Delta and gas flaring in Nigeria.

In a blog posting by Senior Engagement Specialist Sylvia van Waveren, Robeco said: “After three years of engagement, Shell has taken responsibility for cleaning up most of the backlog of spills at legacy sites in the Delta.” But this hasn’t been fully recognized by the wider world, Robeco says, due to the “industrial” sabotage of Shell’s pipelines.While Shell is willing to play its part, Robeco argues, it is being seen as the responsibility of the Nigerian government to clean up the entire area. Robeco notes that Shell is leading discussions to set up a $1bn fund to clean up the area but the company has limited power in this “complicated matter”.

Robeco says that given the professional theft of oil it is impossible for Shell to clean up the mess in the Niger Delta. “It is now in the government’s hands. Consequently, we consider the dialogue with the company successfully closed on this topic.”

Shell’s controversial operations in the Niger Delta have long been on institutional investors’ radar screens. In 2013, the Norwegian government rejected the advice of an ethics panel to put Shell under formal observation over their Niger Delta operations.

Although the Niger delta engagement is completed, Robeco’s dialogue on other matters such as remuneration and CO2 emissions continues. It has closed its engagement on drilling in the Chuckchi Sea in the Arctic after the company suspended its plans in 2015.