We work hard to minimise our impact and restore biodiversity where we can. We were the first energy company to launch a biodiversity standard, which set out clear requirements for the way we operate in areas of rich biodiversity. In 2003, we committed not to explore for, or develop, oil and gas resources in natural and mixed World Heritage Sites. Now we are stepping up our ambition, reflecting growing concern about biodiversity loss. Two of the UN Sustainable Development Goals focus on this area: SDG 14 Life below water and SDG 15 Life on land.
Our ambition and commitments
Biodiversity is one of four priority topics in our environmental framework.
Our ambition is to have a positive impact on biodiversity.
Our new commitments from 2021
Our new projects in areas rich in biodiversity – critical habitats1 – will have a net positive impact2 on biodiversity, starting implementation in 2021.
Our nature-based solutions projects, which protect, transform or restore land, will have a net positive impact2 on biodiversity, starting implementation in 2021.
We will replant forests, achieving net-zero deforestation3 from new activities, while maintaining biodiversity and conservation value, starting implementation in 2022.
Our existing commitments
We will not explore for, or develop, oil and gas resources in natural and mixed World Heritage Sites.
We will further improve the way we operate in International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Category I-IV protected areas, and areas of high biodiversity value.
We will publicly report on our activities in IUCN Categories I-IV.
We will work with IUCN and others to help safeguard protected areas.
What we do as an energy company can affect local habitats and the communities that depend on them. When planning a project in critical habitat, we use a mitigation hierarchy – a decision-making framework that involves a sequence of four key actions: avoid, minimise, restore and offset.
Our priority is to avoid negatively impacting biodiversity and ecosystems. For example, by avoiding certain areas and timing our activities so that we do not disturb sensitive species. Where we cannot avoid, we aim to minimise our impact. For example by designing parts of our operations to reduce their effect on local wildlife.
Where our operations have affected biodiversity, we take steps to restore habitats, for example by planting native vegetation which enhances biodiversity. We also look for opportunities to make a positive contribution to conservation, such as taking part in environmental research projects. Read more about our impact assessment process at Shell.
Operating in areas rich in biodiversity
Shell believes some areas are too sensitive to enter. In 2003 we made an industry-leading commitment not to explore for, or develop, oil and gas resources in natural and mixed World Heritage Sites.
If we do operate in an area that is rich in biodiversity – known as a critical habitat – we develop a biodiversity action plan.
Now we want to go further and demonstrate a net positive impact to biodiversity from our new projects in critical habitats. This will include investing in conservation and taking measures which will safeguard and, where possible, enhance local environments.
This commitment will apply to all new projects. We will incorporate these requirements into our processes and apply them from 2021.
Evidence of enhancement of biodiversity may take time, but we will report our progress in our 2022 Sustainability Report.
As well as tackling carbon emissions, nature-based solutions (NBS) can protect and restore biodiversity. We are investing in protecting and developing natural ecosystems, such as forests, grasslands and wetlands, to capture carbon from the atmosphere and help our customers offset their emissions. In 2021, we expect to invest around $100 million in nature-based solutions.
Now we plan to go further and demonstrate net positive impact for biodiversity in our NBS business. To progress this commitment, from 2021, our new NBS projects will include conservation objectives to enhance biodiversity.
We are already taking steps to improve biodiversity in our work with Forestry and Land Scotland to preserve and extend ancient native woodlands in the Scottish Highlands. By planting more than 200,000 trees of many varieties, including Caledonian pine, we can help the forest to regenerate and preserve habitats that will benefit animals such as pine martens, ospreys, black grouse and red squirrel. Read the story: 'Sowing seeds for the future'
Improving biodiversity takes time. As we grow our investments in NBS, we will report our progress, starting in our 2021 Sustainability Report.
We have set a new commitment that we will replant forests, achieving net-zero deforestation from new activities, while maintaining biodiversity and conservation value.
This commitment applies to land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than five metres and a canopy cover of more than 10%, or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ. It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use.
Our businesses will start to identify where there is loss of forest (under the above criteria) when they are planning new activities. They will identify areas for replanting to ensure that ecological conservation is maintained.
We will start to include these requirements into our internal processes, for example impact assessments, during 2021 and we expect to start implementation from 2022. We will share our progress in our 2022 Sustainability Report.
Working with others
We have a long history of working alongside our global environmental partners: the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy, and Earthwatch.
Read more about our partnerships at environmental and social partners.
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