University divestment campaigns played a vital role in the anti-apartheid
struggle, and are a valuable tool for affecting change in multinational
corporations. Divestment campaigns involve persuading your university to
sell its stock in a particular company as a way of demonstrating disapproval
of the company's business practices. Universities often have large endowments
that they invest in hundreds of companies (including Shell!), usually without
your knowledge. Donít let university adminstration (and by default
YOU) continue to support Shell's atrocities!
The Royal Dutch/Shell Group of companies is headed by two companies,
which are traded separately on stock markets like the New York Stock Exchange.
If you look at prices on the exchange, you'll see "RoylDut" (Royal Dutch
Petroleum Company) and "ShellTr" (Shell Transport and Trading Company).
Royal Dutch stock is from the Dutch corporation that owns 60% of the Royal
Dutch/Shell Group, and Shell Transport and Trading Company stock is for
the British corporation that owns 40% of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. Many
schools own stock in either of these corporations, which together oversee
Shell Nigeria and Shell Oil of the United States. None of Royal Dutch/Shell's
U.S. subsidiaries are traded publicly, so your school won't own stock in
Shell Oil, only in its parent companies.
Some universities disclose their investment portfolios to their students,
and some are more protective about releasing that information. If your
university discloses the names of corporations it invests in, you're in
luck! If your university does not, you're in the majority-- but don't give
up! There are many ways to get this information. The first is going directly
to your university budget/accounting/trustee/investment offices and asking
for help. Each university is structured differently, but you'll quickly
figure out where to go for the information. Write to your board of trustees,
explaining your concern and asking that they investigate their investments.
Be persuasive! If they still don't disclose their corporations, at public
universities you can file a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) form,
and they are required to disclose it. Many times, you will find that university
administrations have NO IDEA which corporations the school invests in because
the investments are sometimes handled by other groups. By investing indiscriminately,
the university usually ends up financially supporting corporations with
If they have over $100 million in domestically traded securities, institutions
(including all universities) are required to file their stock holdings
with the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington,
D.C. Suprisingly enough, many universities fall into this catagory.
This is public information from the SEC. To find out what your school owns,
contact the Public Reference Branch of the SEC (phone: 202.942.8090, fax:
202.628.9001) and request that the 13F documents for your school be mailed
or faxed to you. (Note: the stock listings may be listed as the name of
the university, or as the "Trustees of ..... University"). The SEC
will then forward your request to a subcontractor (one of them is Disclosure,
Inc.) which finds the information and copies it at 28¢ per page. This
can end up being very expensive and time consuming, so we recommend that
you ask the SEC who will be handling your request, and that you then keep
in contact with the subcontractor so they know exactly what information
you need and don't let it sit around for too long.Set a cap for how much
you are willing to spend for this information. We suggest that you team
up with others at your school who are curious about the investment activity
of your university, such as the Free Burma Coalition, so that you can split
the costs and the calling. If you hit a brick wall and have tried to get
your information from your university, or it looks like you will go over
your cap for finding the information, please contact us and we will see
how we can work together.
Once you know whether your university invests in Royal Dutch and/or
Shell Trade and Transport, you can pressure the university to drop its
stock and invest responsibly! To bring attention to your campaign, use
actions like petition drives, protests, letter writing campaigns, public
events on Shell in Nigeria, or whatever you feel will draw attention and
support to your efforts to ending the financial support for multinational
oil corporations with horrifying environmental and human rights issues.
We also suggest sending out press releases about your university's investment
in Shell, and Shell's atrocities in Nigeria every time you take action
or organize an event.
Another tactic is to convince your university to propose or support
shareholder resolutions calling for an investigation into Shell's activities
in Ogoniland, the release of the Ogoni 20, and public apologies for Shell's
unabashed exploitation of the environment and human rights across the world.
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) has lots of information
about stockholder resolutions: how to know when good resolutions have been
proposed, or how to introduce one and build allies in your fight to influence
stockholder opinion and actions. They also have a book called the
Proxy Resolutions Book, a compiliation of all shareholder resolutions which
are coming up during the year.
Divestment campaign contacts:
Securities and Exchange Commission
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (212) 870-2296
475 Riverside Dr
New York, NY 10115
Purchasing! Stop your city/university from buying Shell products!
Convincing your university and/or city to boycott Shell products makes
an impact on businesses, like Shell, which disregard the importance of
human rights and the environment. "Selective Purchasing" policies like
this can have an even larger impact when other schools and cities join
in the boycott and can leave a mark on Shell's sales. Selective Purchasing
policies on businesses operating in Nigeria are already in place in San
Francisco and Berkeley, California. These are some ideas for how to change
your university/city in order to change Shell.
You will first need to determine who has the power to decide what products
are bought by your university. In some rare cases, student government bodies
hold enough power to do this. More often, you will have to work with your
administration to develop a decree explaining why they won't purchase Shell
products. Ask around in the Budget office, the Purchasing office and the
President's office. You will need to convince these people that, even if
other products are slightly more expensive, not buying Shell products is
the right thing to do. Insist on a binding statement, not just statement
of preference. You will even need them to help you, so don't make quick
enemies! Diplomacy is key in such discussions.
You will also have to make friends in the Purchasing department to insure
that any policy agreed to by your administration is actually enforced,
otherwise it will be merely a symbolic victory (although these are important
If you want to get a student government resolution passed, you will
probably need a sponsor within the government. Once you have found someone
willing to sponsor the resolution, work with them on writing something
they think will appeal to other representatives. Make sure you talk to
the other representatives before the resolution is formally presented,
to give them information and see what questions they have.