A spokesman for TSB confirmed that it had disposed of its 110,000 shares in Shell Transport worth pounds 35 each, which it held as part of its Environmental Investors Fund, a portfolio for those who only want to invest in environmentally sound companies. The spokesman said it had been advised to disinvest by the Conservation Foundation because of the way Shell was extracting oil in the Niger delta and because of the impact of oil extraction on the local villages.
Shell stands accused of insufficient environmental care in its oil operations and not doing enough to assist local people effected by its activities. Oil spills have not been cleared up and in one instance the freshwater supply for a village was destroyed by a canal built by Shell.
A spokesman from the Conservation Foundation said the TSB had been advised to sell the Shell shares because it would prompt the company into taking action. 'If you don't do anything you get drawn into a web of discussions and the longer you talk the less you do,' said Struan Simpson of the foundation. But he added that the aim was not to pillory Shell but to solve the problem, and that a meeting between Shell and the foundation would take place shortly.
Shell said it was disappointed at the decision and announced that it was undertaking a full environmental study of the Niger delta. 'We are not saying there have been no environmental problems but when they occur we deal with them. We go in, clear up and pay compensation. We believe our operations do take care of the environment,' said Eric Nickson, a Shell spokesman.
Shell's operations, owned jointly with the Nigerian government, are vital to Nigeria. It has been there nearly 50 years and extracts about half of Nigeria's 2 million barrels a day oil production, accounting for over 95 per cent of the country's export earnings. Nigeria is also essential to Shell, accounting for some 14 per cent of the company's production.