Royal Dutch Shell is moving its headquarters from The Hague, Netherlands to London, U.K. and dropping the “Royal Dutch” from its name, just months after a Dutch court ordered the colossal fossil to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030.
“The changes come as Shell is battling activist investor Dan Loeb, who’s demanding the company split itself into two to attract shareholders leaving the energy sector because of concerns over climate change,” Bloomberg reports. The company was also “pushed away by Dutch taxes and facing climate pressure in court,” Reuters adds, and stung by a blistering statement last month in which civil service pension fund ABP said it would drop its fossil fuel investments.
The company had operated under the same name since 1907, according to news reports.
The decision means Shell is ditching the jurisdiction where it lost a bruising court decision in May. Last month, Scottish climate campaigner Lauren MacDonald confronted Shell CEO Ben van Beurden on a TED Countdown stage in Edinburgh, asking how he could claim to be serious about the climate emergency when his company is appealing that ruling.
“We will never forget what you have done and what Shell has done,” MacDonald told van Beurden, and “as the climate crisis gets more and more deadly, you will be to blame.” A rattled Shell CEO later accused campaigners of “blackwashing” his industry.
With the U.K. scrambling to show credibility after its calamitous exit from the European Union, Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng called Shell’s announcement “a clear vote of confidence in the British economy”. That was just days after his country led the COP 26 climate conference in Glasgow to a deeply inadequate conclusion—and days before the Boris Johnson government is expected to approve the new 255-million-barrel Cambo oilfield off the Shetland Islands.
But news reports linked Shell’s decision to the business environment the company is leaving behind, as much as the one it’s embracing.
“The firm has been in a long-running tussle with the Dutch authorities over the country’s 15% dividend withholding tax on some of its shares, making them less attractive for international investors,” Reuters says. “The new single structure with all shares under British law means none of its shares would be under this tax. It would also allow Shell to strike swifter sale or acquisition deals.”
Adam Matthews, chief responsible investment officer at Church of England Pensions Board, said the head office move should not shift the company’s obligation to comply with the Dutch court ruling. But “if this decision will enable the company to be more agile in order to execute its transition to net-zero, then it should be viewed positively,” said Matthews, who is leading talks with the colossal fossil on behalf of the Climate Action 100+ investors’ group.
“The cabinet very much regrets that Shell wants to move its headquarters to the United Kingdom,” Dutch economy and environment minister Stef Blok said in a statement, adding that the government was “in conversation” with Shell top management about the consequences for jobs and investment.