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Volunteering: Hands-on help to safeguard the planet
Around the world we encourage our staff to volunteer for projects that bring new knowledge of the natural environment around our operations – and help to conserve it. We partner with governments and non-governmental organisations to make best use of our people’s skills.
Our 87,000 employees in over 70 countries include business experts, leading scientists and top engineers. Whatever their role, our staff have the opportunity to volunteer for social and environmental projects that can bring benefits to local communities and help preserve nature.
Supporting environmental research
Scientists around the world are studying natural shifts in the environment, along with the effects of climate change.
Earthwatch, an international environmental charity, provides volunteers to support such projects. Some are Shell staff, provided through our Project Better World partnership with Earthwatch.
Each year our volunteers spend two weeks supporting research projects around the world.
These include studying the effects of climate change on the Arctic’s edge, managing deforestation in Borneo, and the impact of dwindling mangroves in Kenya.
“The project was designed with volunteers in mind,” says Dr Glen Reynolds, lead scientist at the Sabah biodiversity experiment research project, Borneo. “Without them it wouldn’t be possible.”
The benefits of the project are potentially far-reaching.
“My research results can inform governments and industry,” says Pete Kershaw, who heads up research at the Churchill site in Canada.
Business meets natural beauty
UNESCO’s World Heritage List includes over 180 sites recognised for their outstanding universal natural heritage value.
Managers conserving these sites face challenges that can include growing urbanisation and tourism management.
UNESCO, environmental charity Earthwatch, Shell Foundation and Shell launched the Business Skills for World Heritage programme in 2009 to boost the business skills of site managers.
Shell staff trained on business planning come together with protected area site managers at a central location to provide a 10-day course on planning, finance and marketing – the essential components of a business plan.
“People working at World Heritage sites are often environmental experts, but they can benefit from learning new business skills.”
says David Southall, a business opportunity manager for Shell who trained UNESCO staff protecting national parks in India, Vietnam and Malaysia.
“And I learned a lot from working with them to find solutions together.”
The Shell individuals then follow up with 12 months’ mentoring to help those site managers apply those new skills and put their business plans into action.
“The fact that the programme comes with a mentor is a great asset in terms of developing a concise and realistic credible plan,” says Natalie Hayward, a 2012 participant who helps manage Cape Floral Region Protected Areas.
“I would not be able to do it alone."
A dive into marine life
The waters off Singapore’s islands, where Shell has the world’s largest refinery and petrochemicals complex, are rich in biodiversity.
But until recently little was known about the species that live there.
The government launched the first comprehensive study of marine life in 2010.
Shell is now supporting the five-year initiative with $500,000 in funding and encourages staff to volunteer.
Around 50 Shell staff members are helping to gather and clean thousands of samples, starting in shallower waters then moving out to coral reefs and the deep sea.
“Having volunteers from Shell, which is already sponsoring the survey, is all the more meaningful,” says Prof Peter Ng, of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the National University of Singapore and chief scientist leading the survey.
“It is the action and passion of such volunteers which have helped make the expedition so successful."
Shell has also brought in a team of around 20 expert scientists from around the world to support local scientists.
The team has identified six potentially new species. It will share all findings for publication, allowing the wider scientific community to learn more about the marine environment in this region.
Shell will use the information as part of monitoring the possible impact of its activities on marine life. In future this approach might spread.
“Scientists from other countries in the region could encourage their governments to do the same,” says Peter.