ANALYSIS: Shell tackles negative view of its policies - International PR

Client: Shell International PR Team: Fishburn Hedges Campaign: Listening and Responding Timescale: 1999-ongoing Budget: Approaching seven figures

Shell has recently had to face tough questions over corporate social and environmental responsibility. The firms's stakeholders include the financial community, NGOs, media, government and corporate peers. In 1998, MORI research revealed a 'knowledge gap' in these groups' understanding of Shell's policies and principles, which was leading to negative perceptions of the company.

Objectives

To help Shell defend its reputation, generate understanding about its business principles and promote a more positive image among its global stakeholders.

Strategy and Plan

The Listening and Responding comms programme was developed to engage with stakeholders and stimulate debate around subjects such as social investment and environmental responsibility.

A global campaign was backed by local pushes in countries including Canada, the Netherlands and the UK. Local Shell people tailored the campaigns, which included a seminar to debate the implications for UK businesses of the World Summit for Sustainable Development, taking place in Johannesburg in June 2002.

Events in 2002 included a 24-hour stakeholder forum in Brussels, led by political writer Will Hutton, and an internal photographic competition with National Geographic Magazine to raise understanding of sustainable development among Shell's employees.

Measurement and Evaluation

A survey of around 100 local stakeholders and 500 motorists was conducted before and after each country campaign to assess its impact. Progress has been clear. In Australia, just five per cent of the target audience believed Shell demonstrated leadership in environmental issues before the programme, rising to 41 per cent afterwards. In Hong Kong, the amount of people who said they would speak highly of Shell rose from 39 per cent to 52 per cent.

Results

Shell has positively transformed its reputation among stakeholders in less than five years. Head of strategy at think-tank Demos James Wilson said: 'I'm impressed by the openness and honesty Shell has demonstrated in its approach to sustainability and social responsibility. I hope more companies will follow their example.'

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