Modern activism changing Shell from the inside

Always wanted to influence decision making in one of the largest firms in the world? Become a shareholder with a vision for Shell! Anyone with an iDEAL or PayPal account is only one easy click away from membership of this unique movement in Amsterdam, also known as ‘Change the world: buy Shell’.
By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Simone Kranendonk
During the May 2015 Shell shareholders’ annual meeting a new form of activism took the stage. Mark van Baal, energy journalist, represented the members of his initiative Follow-This asking for Shell to speed up the energy transition by investing profits in renewables instead of fossil fuels.
Two months before this annual meeting, Van Baal started the movement aiming to constructively change something for the good in the business of Shell. Sustainability was not a new issue on the agenda, it has been acknowledged point for many years already, but according to Van Baal not included satisfactory in the business case yet. Consequently Shell risks to develop into the next Kodak or Nokia, lacking behind innovation and future prospects, a well-known comparison from Van Baal. Turns out not only individuals with a green heart agree. Also existing shareholders and partners seem to be ready for a change, if not for the environment for enduring successful business.
This is exactly the power of Follow-This. The success of the concept lies in the participation and interests of both individual shareholders and existing large investment shareholders.
New and existing individual shareholders can become member of Follow-This, meaning they will be represented by Van Baal and his companions during annual shareholder meetings. For the next meeting, in Spring 2016, Follow-This will put their distinct issue on the agenda.
Moreover, by registration of every individual Follow-This member, an e-mail to Van Beurden (CEO Shell) is sent, with the opportunity to add a personal note. This way everyone gets the chance to explain his/her personal motivation to participate and try to get things moving at Shell to Van Beurden. Van Beurden assured Van Baal that he reads these e-mails, motivated to read people’s personal motivation to get involved.
Van Baal, engineer and journalist of profession, also couples up with large partners like pension funds. These usually already hold (large) shares in Shell, but are feeling uncomfortable because of the growing quest of more Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of clients and resistance towards conservative investments like fossil fuels. Especially across the new workforce (todays’ twenty-somethings) Shell investments are considered irresponsible and hopelessly outdated, moreover because these investments are fixed for the coming forty years.
Consequently, Follow-This has, besides its individual active participants, some powerful partnerships for their path to the next shareholder meeting in Spring 2016. With 12,5 thousand individual shares Follow-This has conquered a strong position already, but more back up would obviously turn out in more pressure for the sake of green investments.
Making participation easy and accessible, only one click on the website makes you a green shareholder in Shell for 28 euro (based on the current share price). ‘This is not a gift but an investment,’ emphasizes Van Baal, ‘You actually own a green share in Shell. When Shell changes course, the share price could go up’.
See Van Baal at the 2015 Shareholders’ meeting here.
Simone Kranendonk has a BSc in Political Science and a MA degree in European Public Policy with a focus on environmental policy and transition management. ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’ describes best how she looks at social development challenges and taking care of the world.
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