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Waitrose puts Shell deal on ice

Dec 12

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12/12/2012 16:38  RssIcon

Retail giant supports Arctic sanctuary

Waitrose has announced it's putting the brakes on plans to expand its partnership with oil company Shell – the oil giant planning to drill for oil in the Arctic – after just ten days of intense campaigning by environmental group Greenpeace.

The UK retailers had been considering plans to open up shops in Shell petrol stations across the country, but yesterday Waitrose bosses confirmed the roll-out of the forecourt partnership has been put on hold until after 2013. They also declared their support for the creation of an Arctic sanctuary under the aegis of the United Nations – a move that would throw a serious spanner in the works of Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the frozen north.

Greenpeace campaigner Sara Ayech said: “Greenpeace wholeheartedly welcomes Waitrose’s support for the creation of an Arctic sanctuary, and many ethically-minded customers will be relieved to hear the company has put the brakes on its partnership with environment villain Shell."


The campaign

Waitrose’s decision comes after nearly 40,000 people signed a Greenpeace petition urging Waitrose to break off the partnership with Shell, and the company suffered a Facebook PR meltdown last week as hundreds of users posted negative comments about the business alliance. Greenpeace also released a spoof of the Waitrose Christmas ad that has been watched by thousands of people on YouTube.

The move by the popular High Street brand will come as a blow to Shell. The oil giant has come under scrutiny after a series of bungled attempts to start explorative drilling in the Arctic earlier in the year. A cross-party group of MPs subsequently called for a halt to oil exploration in the Arctic, warning that a spill would have ‘devastating consequences for wildlife’ in this pristine environment.

Sara commented that “Shell is desperate to greenwash its soiled brand in the cleaner waters of reputable companies, but the thought of the incalculable damage wreaked by an oil spill in the pristine Arctic environment should be enough to make prospective partners think twice.”


Deal on hold

Waitrose opened two stores in Shell forecourts last year with a view to roll out the ‘new joint format’ more widely. A Shell brochure published in summer stated that ‘the plan is to expand later this year'. But in an email exchange with Greenpeace, Waitrose managing director Mark Price confirmed that his company has no plans to expand beyond the current pilot scheme next year and no financial provisions for this have been put in place.

In a separate letter to Greenpeace the Waitrose boss also stated that the company ‘share[s] the view that the Arctic should be declared a sanctuary by the United Nations’ – a status which, if granted, would make the polar region off limits to oil drillers like Shell.

Sara Ayech added, “Waitrose’s move sends a powerful signal to other major brands that a wad of oil-drenched cash from Arctic drillers like Shell comes with a hidden price tag in terms of reputational costs."

In our new buyers' guide to insurance companies we uncover the underwriters investing in arctic oil exploration. Subscribe to Ethical Consumer to find out more.





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