The Gentle Giants Who Really Care

A US diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks details an exchange that took place in October 2009 between Ann Pickard, Royal Dutch Shell’s then-vice president for Sub-Saharan Africa, and US diplomats at the embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. The cable states that, according to Pickard, “Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries.”

And you know, Shell paints itself as a company that takes Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) quite seriously. They all paint themselves that way, don’t they?

Shell gave money to EWB for our conference last year. One of their people went up on stage and gave a nice talk about how much they care. And then there was a session on CSR jointly hosted by someone from Shell and another person from HATCH, a huge company that services the mining sector. They talked a whole about how much their employers care — how they’re working to “set the bar high” or something of that sort. It was really nice.


Nigeria should be a rich country. But it’s not. Instead it has an average life expectancy of less than 50 years.

So anyway.

Arundhati Roy gives us a good account of what the deal is with CSR:

On the outskirts of Raipur, a massive billboard advertises Vedanta Cancer Hospital. In Orissa, where it is mining bauxite, Vedanta is financing a university. In these creeping, innocuous ways, mining corporations enter our imaginations: the Gentle Giants Who Really Care. It’s called CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility… CSR masks the outrageous economics that underpins the mining sector in India. For example, according to the recent Lokayukta report for Karnataka, for every tonne of iron ore mined by a private company, the government gets a royalty of Rs 27 and the mining company makes Rs 5,000. In the bauxite and aluminium sector, the figures are even worse. We’re talking about daylight robbery to the tune of billions of dollars. Enough to buy elections, governments, judges, newspapers, TV channels, NGOs and aid agencies. What’s the occasional cancer hospital here or there?

Here’s a nice video of Peter Munk, chairman of Barrick Gold, talking about how much he cares:


One response to “The Gentle Giants Who Really Care

  • Leah

    Hey Umair!
    Wow, what a lot of posts I had to catch up on! Have you ever considered starting your own blog on international development? You definitely have enough material/knowledge to do so! Really looking forward to hearing some details about your placement soon!

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