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Buddhist monk hired to re-energise Shell

FIRST THERE was all that nasty bother about sinking dirty oil platforms in the North Sea, then that troublesome business with the Ogoni tribespeople in Nigeria. None of it any good for the public image of a company in these environmentally conscious times.

The solution? Hire a Buddhist monk of course, and have him lead a mediation session for 550 of your senior managers to make them, well, a bit more spiritual.

That, at least, was the solution hit upon by the oil giant Shell International, when it decided a little spiritual input might be needed if it was to create a better image.

"We have engaged a PR company to carry out a review of the way the company is viewed at home and abroad," said a spokeswoman. "We speak to lots of different people and perhaps at times their perception of Shell does not fit with what we believe to be the position? Shell is very much committed to environmental issues."

The initiative to make Shell's image "softer" was launched by the company's new chairman, Mark Moody Stuart, who felt it was seen by many as stuffy .The re-imaging comes amid growing speculation that Shell is about to merge with Texaco.

Lama Yeshe Losal held the session in Maastricht earlier this summer. So did it do any good? "I am afraid there is no one I can ask," apologised the spokeswoman. "Only senior management were invited."

Shell to merge? page 18