IUCN and Shell have been working together on biodiversity issues since 2000. The current set of collaborative projects seeks to leverage earlier agreements that saw IUCN and Shell demonstrating leadership in both the business and conservation sectors to bring about positive changes for biodiversity conservation. The current collaborative agreement is subject to annual review. The overall objectives have included:
- Establishing an independent scientific panel through IUCN to provide Sakhalin Energy with technical advice and recommendations on how it can minimize risks to the Western Gray Whales and their habitat.
- Building on the work of the IUCN-Niger Delta Panel (2012-2016), which provided science-based recommendations for the remediation and rehabilitation of biodiversity and habitats of oil spill sites in the Niger Delta. This includes the recent establishment of a new technical advisory group to test a revised remediation and rehabilitation standard developed by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.
- Creating the institutional capacity of the Iraqi authorities in collaboration with IUCN Members on the ground for appropriate conservation in oil and gas developments in the fragile ecosystems of the region.
As the oil and gas sector has a large footprint on biodiversity, it is one of IUCN’s priorities for business engagement.
While IUCN does not agree with everything Shell does, the company has nevertheless demonstrated a willingness to change its operations and engage with the wider energy sector in order to reduce potential impacts on biodiversity.
Shell: a growing commitment to biodiversity.
In 2001, Shell became the first oil and gas company to develop a biodiversity standard. Now implemented across its business, the standard requires the company to address biodiversity early in new projects and integrate it into impact assessments; consult with biodiversity experts; and, develop biodiversity action plans (BAPs) at existing operations in areas of high biodiversity value.
The company has also engaged in structured dialogues and joint initiatives with IUCN aimed at developing new biodiversity conservation standards and operational procedures. Highlights from this collaboration include:
- Shell declaring natural World Heritage sites as ‘no go’ areas in 2003 – the first and only oil & gas company to do so.
- The Energy and Biodiversity Initiative (EBI), a joint industry/NGO initiative that produced a series of best practice guidelines and tools to improve the environmental performance of energy operations.
- The Building Biodiversity Business report, which identifies opportunities and mechanisms for market-based biodiversity conservation.
- An independent scientific review panel to evaluate the Sakhalin II project of the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (a major Shell joint venture gas development project in Sakhalin, far Eastern Russia), in light of any potential impacts on the critically endangered western grey whales.
- Participating in the NPI Alliance, which published two papers exploring how a Net Positive Impact (NPI) approach on biodiversity can enable the private sector to better manage biodiversity and contribute to global conservation.
IUCN and Shell: an ongoing relationship
The current collaborative activities between Shell and IUCN represent the latest development in this long-standing relationship – and a continuation of IUCN’s strategy to influence large footprint industries where it can effect change. It also represents a continuation of Shell’s strategy to collaborate with biodiversity experts in order to reduce its environmental impact and help conserve biodiversity.
Through this relationship, IUCN and Shell are exploring ways to upscale efforts and further integrate biodiversity in the energy business, as well as bring business skills and approaches to conservation.