Will Shell Leave ALEC? An Executive Hints At An Exit

May 27, 2015
Gretchen Goldman
Research Director, Center for Science & Democracy

Ask and you shell receive? (Sorry. Had to take that one.) It may be so. Last week, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden hinted that the company may leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) by not renewing its membership, according to an interview with the Guardian. The statement comes after increasing pressure on Shell to leave the climate-misinformation-spreading lobbying organization.

In a recent interview, Shell CEO suggested the company may leave ALEC soon. Will Shell finally leave the climate-denying lobbying group? Photo: Flickr/. Shell

In a recent interview, Shell CEO suggested the company may leave ALEC soon. Will Shell finally leave the climate-change-denying lobbying group? Photo: Flickr/. Shell

Shell leaving ALEC is overdue

And that pressure has been building for some time. Starting last fall, UCS and its supporters and allies have been asking Shell to leave the ALEC, sending more than 130,000 messages in counting to Shell decision makers.

As I’ve noted (here and here), it’s high time Shell left an organization that spreads misinformation about climate science, and affiliates with groups that harass climate scientists. We expect better. In particular, I would expect better of a company like Shell, which has already taken several steps in the right direction on climate change policy, including signing the Trillion Tonne Communique and becoming a leader on carbon pricing. Despite their (disappointing) recently approved plans to drill for oil in the Arctic, I nonetheless expect Shell to join the growing number of companies that have declared ALEC too far from reality on climate change.

And that group of companies is growing. Shell must be feeling pressure as the ALEC exodus of companies continues. After a wave of high-profile tech firms left the lobbying group last year, and BP announced it would leave ALEC last March, our eyes are on Shell to make the next move.

Shell’s investors have spoken

At Shell’s annual general meeting (AGM) last week, shareholders overwhelming voted in support of a resolution asking the company to better disclose climate-related risks. To be a clear, a 99% positive vote on a shareholder resolution like this is relatively rare. Shell’s shareholders have spoken and they want a company that is responsible on climate change.

And Shell’s shareholders weren’t just satisfied with the passing vote. Shell’s AGM was dominated by shareholders with inquiries on how Shell is addressing global warming. Shell executives faced questions about their decision to drill in the Arctic, the potential for stranded assets if carbon is restricted in the future, and membership in ALEC and other lobbying efforts.

As I’ve laid out, responsibility on climate change should include dissociation from groups that spread misinformation on climate change. BP, for example, had a similar resolution pass at its shareholder meeting this year, and BP still saw the necessity of leaving ALEC.

An end to the shell game?

An ALEC Spring Taskforce meeting held in Savannah, Georgia, this month also made headlines. A hard-hitting investigative report by Atlanta’s local 11 Alive station, recently shed further light on the extent to which ALEC is undermining our democracy—arranging for corporate lobbyists to fund legislators’ meeting attendance and gaining access to the lawmakers behind closed doors.  A responsible company should have no part in such activities.

And with BP leaving ALEC and Shell signaling it is likely to join, other big companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron find themselves increasingly isolated as they head into shareholder meetings where climate change and ALEC will be on the agenda.

I hope that Shell follows through on its CEO’s suggestion that the company may finally leave ALEC. In the meantime, I’ll be eagerly waiting the end of this shell game.