We work closely with communities to understand their concerns and identify how to address them. We aim to avoid or reduce any adverse impacts and to manage those impacts that may be unavoidable.
By engaging openly with communities we are able to identify how and where we can bring sustainable benefits. We do this in many ways: by creating new jobs, encouraging local businesses to be a part of our supply chain, and providing useful skills training for people.
Our work in communities is aligned to our strategic community development themes of improving access to energy, supporting young businesses to grow, and improving road safety. In 2014, we invested around $160 million in voluntary social projects worldwide. In addition, we invested more than $100 million in projects agreed in our operating contracts.
Community specialist areas
The first stage of project planning involves carrying out an impact assessment to understand the potential effects on local communities, including people’s health and the environment. Impact assessments are usually carried out by specialist external consultants, under the management of Shell’s experienced impact assessment practitioners.
At every review stage of the project we consider these impacts and decide whether and how best to move ahead. The assessment of these impacts may lead to the revision of project plans, such as rerouting pipelines or roads, changing plant layout or design, or re-scheduling construction activities to avoid disrupting seasonal community activities.
Shell has dedicated in-house specialists who are experienced in engaging with communities, including indigenous peoples, managing impacts related to resettlement and livelihoods, and identifying and managing impacts on cultural heritage. The specialists work with our project and technical teams to investigate opportunities to first avoid or, where this is not possible, to minimise impacts.
Community engagement and feedback
We work to understand community needs, expectations and concerns through community meetings, opinion surveys, advisory panels and telephone hotlines. We also employ dedicated professionals, called community liaison officers, to directly interact with people in the community and keep local people informed about the ways our operations may affect them. This enables us to gather input on the impacts of our business activities as well as the effectiveness of our stakeholder engagement, and it helps us find better solutions.
It is important to us that people in communities are able to contact Shell, give feedback and receive a response or action from us. We have implemented “community feedback procedures” at major operations and projects to receive, track and respond to questions and complaints from community members before they can escalate.
We have also worked with IPIECA (the global oil and gas industry body for environmental and social issues) to include our experience in managing community feedback in publicly-available guidance documents and toolkits. This helps our industry to improve its management of community concerns.
Working with indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples often have unique cultural attributes and strong historic ties to a particular territory. In some countries, for example in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA, indigenous peoples hold specific rights that protect their cultures and ways of life.
When our operations are near indigenous peoples, we seek advice from our experts to identify any additional activities or measures that may be required to accommodate the unique attributes of indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups.
In Canada, we have put several agreements in place with First Nations and Métis communities. These help to strengthen our relationships with them throughout the course of projects.
Managing land access and resettlement
Our operations sometimes require temporary or permanent access to areas of land or sea where people are living or working. We first try to avoid the need to resettle people, and where unavoidable, we work with local communities to help them relocate, maintain their standard of living or, if necessary, find new livelihoods. This is done through the development and implementation of “resettlement action plans” or “livelihood restoration plans”.
Respecting cultural heritage
Cultural heritage can be represented in tangible form, such as treasured artefacts, or as intangible attributes, like language or traditions. It may have great value for past, present and future generations. Our specialists work to preserve cultural heritage near our operations.
For example, we have operations in Majnoon, southern Iraq, an area near the ancient Mesopotamian Delta. The Iran-Iraq conflict in the 1980s scattered important archaeological remains across a wide area. We commissioned experts from the University of Queensland, Australia, to conduct an archaeological survey to make sure that we do not disturb these remains when working in Majnoon.
Aligning with best practice
When we work with local communities, we use international standards as our benchmark, including the International Finance Corporation’s Environmental and Social Performance Standards – as well as our own standards. We develop a social performance plan for all our major projects and assets, which includes a summary of our impact assessment findings.