Oxford is saying no to Shell’s whitewashing

TAKE ACTION: support the Fuel Quality Directive; call on the County and City Councils to go Fossil-Free; call on Oxford University to go Fossil-Free


Update: shortly after we started our leafleting and banner holding, there was some commotion from within the Shell trailer. A little later loads of police arrived, and shut the trailer as a crime scene (see left). This is what happened. As a result police stopped anyone from approaching Shell’s recruitment stall, in effect doing the job of protesters who had gathered to dissuade students from signing up to Shell’s whitewash of a competition.

Update #2: two days later, Shell were at the Earth Sciences department, with a Formula 1 car (yes, we were just as gob-smacked when we heard about it). You can read what went down over here.


As part of its recruitment events Shell – one of the most destructive companies in the world today – will be back in Oxford, on Broad Street, trying to recruit students to their global ‘Shell Ideas360’ competition.

This competition is a classic example of a company trying to whitewash its image, and achieve social acceptability, while doing nothing substantial about changing the way it conducts its business. To counteract such whitewashing, a group of Tar-Free Oxford campaigners as well as People & Planet’s Fossil Free campaign and Oxford University students will be on Broad Street from 1pm to 2pm talking to the public, and especially to the students Shell are targeting, and letting them know that Shell is:

When last May the Shell-sponsored Geoscience lab in Oxford University’s Earth Sciences department was opened, many of the university’s staff, students and alumni, as well as Oxford residents, have expressed their outrage. This included a letter in the Guardian signed by over 75 staff, students and alumni, including prominent environmentalists Jonathon Porritt, George Monbiot and Jeremy Leggett, Emeritus Fellow of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute Brenda Boardman, and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare Rachel Stancliffe. Oxford University Students’ Union also passed an emergency motion to ‘formally oppose’ the partnership.

Then on June 24th, the Oxford City Council passed a motion to declare Oxford a ‘Tar-Free Town’ but now Shell is trying to distract from its involvement in these abuses with a flashy competition, associating itself with bright young people, whilst continuing to ruin their future.

City councillor Sam Hollick (Holywell ward) said:

I am shocked that those responsible on the council have given Shell the go ahead for this event, even after I highlighted how this flies in the face of the council declaring itself a Tar Free City earlier this year. This is a classic attempt at greenwash from Shell. Fossil fuel companies like to seem friendly and concerned about the energy crisis, so hold events like this to ask students for their ideas. Yet they fail to put their money behind the plenty of ideas that already exist, and are only interested in recruiting students to work for their business-as-usual companies.”

Antoine Thalmann, studying for an MPhil in Economics at Oxford University said:

Shell is heavily involved in the production of tar sands, when scientific evidence indicates that doing this means “game over” for the climate, as ex-NASA scientist James Hansen puts it, implying a very bad future for us. I think it is a good enough reason for Oxford University to not have anything to do with this company.”

Ruthi Brandt, Tar-Free Towns campaigner for UK Tar Sands Network, and an Oxford resident said:

As a tar sands campaigner, I constantly see how Shell is not only continuing its destructive ways all over the world, but also actively acts against legislation such as the Fuel Quality Directive which would help Europe reduce its carbon footprint. One of the ways it will do that is by discouraging the imports of carbon-intensive fuels, such as tar sands oil, and therefore will affect Shell’s profits. And, that – not a viable future – is the only thing they really care about. To then see this same Shell being welcomed in the centre of Oxford, free to whitewash its image, is very frustrating. Especially after Oxford became the first Tar-Free Town in Europe!”

4 thoughts on “Oxford is saying no to Shell’s whitewashing

  1. This is an example of very poor judgement on behalf of the council of our first Tar Free Town! I am so sorry that I will not be able to be there with you today to encourage the students who Shall are targetting to stand firm for their future and to tell Shell in no uncertain terms, that they want nothing to do with tyhhem.

  2. Pingback: Get the Shell out of Oxford |

  3. Pingback: Protesters in the UK kick off Reclaim Power week 3 taking on Shell & oil in Nigeria. | Push Europe - European youth for climate justice

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