We’re in She’ll
To celebrate International Women’s Day, the oil and gas company Shell is renaming itself “She’ll” for the day. What better way to celebrate a holiday founded by German socialists who were inspired by a prolonged strike among immigrant garment workers in New York City, and whose ultimate goal was to overthrow capitalism?
Shell is She’ll now, because #women!
“On March 8,” a uniquely cursed press release sent out Friday by the PR firm Edelman states, “Shell will become She’ll with the simple addition of an apostrophe to show that small gestures can motivate and deliver big messages.”
The world’s eleventh-largest industrial source of carbon dioxide emissions will highlight its commitment to gender equity by changing its Shell logo at a single gas station in California and changing its logo across the company’s social media platforms. Per the release, those profiles will also broadcast a video where sentences starting with “She will” appear over the faces of women presumably in the Shell orbit, before eventually collapsing into the Shell logo, then, finally, She’ll.
The rebrand is part of an improbable ad campaign to commemorate International Women’s Day, founded by German socialists who were inspired by a prolonged strike among immigrant garment workers in New York City, and whose ultimate goal was to overthrow capitalism.
“The name change will include a logo change at a gas station in San Dimas, Calif., whose executive leadership team includes a duo of female entrepreneurs,” the She’ll release said of its #girlbosses. “The team is also the largest distributor of Shell branded oil in the state,” where transportation accounts for 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and where climate-fueled wildfires have seen day laborers and domestic workers — most of them women — risk their lives staying behind in the flames for fear of losing a day of wages.
Royal Dutch Shell — sorry, She’ll! — has known about global warming and its own contribution toward it since the mid-1980s, and continued funding efforts to delay any climate policy that might have threatened its profits; She’ll last year chose to retain its membership in the American Petroleum Institute and the US Chamber of Commerce, both of which have been instrumental in blocking climate policy. The UN has estimated that up to 80 percent of people displaced by climate impacts worldwide are women.
The rebranding isn’t exactly breaking new ground for international oil companies like She’ll, SHEvron, EXXonMobil, or Saudi HERamco — which regularly break literal ground on new oil and gas extraction despite it being plainly out of step with millions of people’s collective hope for a habitable future. After its Deepwater Horizon spill killed eleven people in 2010, BP briefly rebranded as “Beyond Petroleum” before switching back to its original name amid criticism and divesting heavily from renewables.
Multinational oil companies — particularly those based in Europe — have long sought to shape rather than block conversations about climate policy outright and fund climate denial as their US counterparts have. European supermajors like She’ll spend handsomely to influence outcomes at virtually every level of government, casting themselves as good-faith actors in the climate fight despite continuing to pour the vast majority of their annual capital spending into oil and gas. At UN climate talks in 2018, She’ll’s David Hone bragged about its influence over the Paris Agreement process.
She’ll is currently being sued in a Dutch court by Esther Kiobel and three other Nigerian women who allege that She’ll was complicit in a military junta’s arrest, detention, and execution of their husbands, all part of a nonviolent movement protesting environmental devastation caused by oil extraction in Ogoniland, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). The Ogoni Nine — including the well-known writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa — were executed after a show trial in 1995, during which two key witnesses alleged that She’ll had bribed them. The company denies having had any involvement, and paid $15.5 million to settle another suit on the matter out of court in 2009. Witness statements in Kiobel v. Shell begin this month in The Hague. Several other cases against She’ll over bribery and environmental abuses are set to proceed later this year.
Despite its commitment to women, She’ll has not responded to my (a woman’s!) request for comment.