By Grace Hetherington, Digital Campaigns Officer, ShareAction

10 August 2015

Shell announced on Friday that it intends to cut ties with US based lobbying group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Shell stated that ALEC’s stance on climate change is “clearly inconsistent with our own.”

You can say that again. When it comes to dodgy lobbying groups, they don’t come much worse than ALEC. The organisation has promoted sceptical positions on the links between human activity and climate change, and tried to lobby against clean energy policies. Its position is so lacking in credibility that droves of household name companies have already dropped support – including Coca Cola, Kraft, Amazon, Dell, Nestle, Microsoft, Google and Facebook. It’s been five months since Shell’s big rival BP announced its decision not to renew its membership. ShareAction has called on companies to leave ALEC for a number of years, and earlier this year coordinated an investor letter calling on Shell to do so.

So the question to ask is not so much: “isn’t this just great news?” but “What took you so long?” Shell is one of the major oil companies that have recently been calling for a global price on carbon, and proclaiming to want to be ‘part of the solution’ to climate change, in a surprising volte-face. It was one of the two companies, alongside BP, to support the shareholder resolutions that ShareAction helped to coordinate this spring, which passed by landslide votes at both companies. The resolutions called for greater disclosure on the risks of climate change to BP and Shell’s business models, and it was a welcome surprise to see both companies come out in support ahead of the vote.

Given Shell’s attempts to at least appear climate-conscious in public, it’s surprising it has taken the company this long to sever ties with an organisation like ALEC that has a damaging international reputation for backroom lobbying, climate change denial and obstruction of clean energy policies. For the public and Shell’s investors alike, it’s a no-brainer that the company should quit this dirty lobbying group. When major players like Shell make public moves to distance themselves from groups like ALEC, it has the knock-on effect of undermining and discrediting the climate scepticism and policy lobbying they undertake.

But there’s still so much to do. Shell and other big oil companies remain members of numerous EU-based trade associations that try to obstruct progressive climate policies at European level. Our Clean Words Dirty Lobby campaign aims to expose the inconsistency between oil companies’ public clean words on climate and the dirty lobbying they fund behind closed doors. We’ve focused the public side of the campaign on French oil company Total, which has one of the largest expenditures in the EU and is a member of multiple obstructive lobbying groups. But we’re pushing all the major oil companies to bring an end to dirty lobbying – not least because it’s savers’ money that is inadvertently financing this lobbying through savings and pension funds.

So whilst of course we can celebrate the fact that ALEC continues to lose the support of major industry players, no one has been fooled into thinking that Shell has become a climate hero overnight. As the company continues to pour shareholder money into projects like Arctic drilling and tar sands excavation, civil society and investors alike will continue to question how committed to climate action this oil giant really is. We must keep up the pressure on Shell and other oil companies to dissociate themselves from all lobbying groups that undermine climate progress. Investors and savers deserve to know their money isn’t being invested in such groups, and energy companies have a duty to prove their clean words on climate are more than just hot air.

Thanks Grace! To find out more about our Clean Words Dirty Lobby campaign please get in touch with Grace