Business History Review


Royal Dutch Shell: Company Strategies for Dealing with Environmental Issues

Keetie Sluytermana1

a1 Professor of business history at Utrecht University in the Netherlands


The intricate interplay among environmental pressure groups, oil companies, and governments is revealed from the perspective of the Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell. An examination of three environmental issues demonstrates the company's awareness of such problems and describes its efforts to contain potential damage to the degree permitted by existing technological and economic constraints. The industry view is that government measures should create a level playing field and should be effective and economically feasible. While pressure groups are skilled at calling attention to environmental problems, industry highlights the tradeoffs between different societal aims that are entailed in tackling these problems. Governments are left to fi nd the best ways to weigh conflicting interests.

Keetie Sluyterman is professor of business history at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. She has written, or jointly authored, a large number of business histories, including histories of Océ, Proost en Brandt, CSM, (Moret) Ernst & Young, Rabobank, Hagemeyer, and Royal Dutch Shell. Her book Dutch Enterprise in the Twentieth Century: Business Strategies in a Small Open Economy was published in 2005.