Corporation, Achievement of National Goals

Over time, the concept of the corporation has normalized this entity with a unique sort of existence. It evolved to be a key player in all modern markets and trade, providing us with our needs and wants. Another entity similar to that is the transnational corporation, but it differs in that it expands beyond its original borders.

With this development came questions about how this entity should be treated and prosecuted, how liable are the constituents (individuals) of this entity etc.  However, that’s not our focus but rather the relation between such transnational corporations and politics and in particular how national goals conflict with that of the corporation. We will focus on Shell PLC, a British multinational oil and gas company and the 6th largest supplier of oil (in a list that includes countries).

If one looks at their sustainability statement, it says, Powering Progress is our strategy to accelerate the transition of our business to net-zero emissions, in step with society, purposefully and profitably. It is designed to create value for our shareholders, customers, and wider society, and integrates our long-standing commitment to contribute to sustainable development with our business strategy.

It seems that it's not only a for-profit organization but also a moral actor trying to better its surroundings. Hence its production of yearly sustainability reports and transitions to net zero emissions. However, actions speak louder than words and, if one looks at their track record, another story shows up.

Firstly, we must establish, as Brian Anderson, Chair of Shell Nigeria, stated: “The government and the oil industry are inextricably entangled.”  A clear example is what happened in Ogoniland in Nigeria, as a response to rising protests against pollution caused by Shell. As the amnesty report stated, Shell wrote to the governor requesting intervention “to enable us to carry out our operations given the strategic nature of our business to the nation's economy.” The regime's previous use of brutality was too apparent for Shell PLC not to predict the consequence of such a request. This led to a massive violent crackdown on protestors. The UK Supreme Court has just recently ruled in favor of Niger Delta communities against Shell.

Furthermore, in contrast to their sustainability statement, the Guardian reports that climate activists are suing Shell directors for the claims that directors haven’t devised plans in line with the Paris Agreement and their target of net zero emissions. Furthermore, US congressional investigation into climate disinformation has revealed "deceptive climate tactics.” For instance, Shell PR sent guidance stating, “Please do not give the impression that Shell is willing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to levels that do not make business sense,” which questions their ambitious commitment.

As societies face social dangers or potential ones such as climate change or inequality, the development of corporations and transnationals has added another dimension to policy and government intervention. Governments are now required to take into account corporations to achieve national targets such as equity and justice while taking into account how corporations can influence governance to debilitate such goals, as seen in Nigeria. It has to restrict corporations in some sense but at the same time ensure liberty and robustness so that it doesn't fall into a command economy.