Shell’s stand on LGBT rights under scrutiny over Brunei’s anti-gay laws
Royal Dutch Shell’s stand on LGBT rights has come under scrutiny following the introduction of laws that punish gay sex with death in Brunei.
The Anglo-Dutch oil giant is the largest foreign business operating in the small southeast Asian kingdom, which brought in laws earlier this month that make gay sex and adultery punishable by stoning.
Shell has long been a champion of LGBT rights, and some shareholders are now voicing concerns about how the laws will affect its 3,500 employees in Brunei.
Eumedion, an organization that represents Dutch institutional investors, said it would raise the issue during its next regular meeting with Shell’s leadership.
The move was first reported by the Financial Times.
Shell operates a joint venture with Brunei’s government that generates 90% of the country’s oil and gas revenue. It’s the most important company in a country where 61% of GDP comes from the oil and gas sector.
The new laws run counter to corporate policies at Shell that are strongly protective of the rights of LGBT employees.
The company has robust diversity and inclusion programs. It sponsors gay pride events in cities around the world, has long-standing LGBT employee support networks and regularly flies rainbow flags in its offices.
It’s also a corporate partner of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBT rights. The group has described the Brunei laws as “state-sponsored torture and murder of LGBTQ people.”
Eumedion said that the shareholders it represents are concerned that Shell’s diversity policies might be compromised.
“It is expected from the company that they live up to their policies on inclusion and LGBT-equality, wherever they have operations,” Eumedion said in a statement sent to CNN Business.
A source with knowledge of the situation said that while Eumedion is concerned about the welfare of Shell employees, it does not expect the company to publicly lobby against Brunei’s laws.
The goal of raising the issue with Shell management is to “protect the company’s human capital,” the source added.
Shell said in a statement that “our core value of respect for people means that we respect all people, irrespective of gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation and all the things that make people different.”
Shell is not the only company facing scrutiny over Brunei.
A number of celebrities and businesses, including Deutsche Bank and Richard Branson, announced earlier this month they’d boycott the Dorchester Collection, a luxury hotel chain owned by the Sultan of Brunei.
STA Travel, which focuses on travel for students and young people, stopped selling flights on Brunei’s national carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines, “in protest at recent changes to the law.”