Caroline Dennett was in her 11th year as an operational safety consultant working for the
petroleum major Shell when she was able to see footage from the climate movement outside
Shell’s UK headquarters. A protester from Extinction Rebellion, Extinction Rebellion, a group
Extinction Rebellion, carried a banner that read “Insiders wanted,” asking employees to contact
the company with any concerns they might have to submit.
She did. This morning, Dennett said it as publicly as she could — breaching her agreement with
Shell in an email and an accompanying video that she sent to the executive board of Shell
because of its inconsistency regarding climate change. In her resignation letter, Dennett said
that she was accusing Shell of “failing on a massive planetary scale” and said that the company
does “not winding down oil and gas, but planning to explore and extract much more.”
Shell has pledged to achieve the goal of net-zero emissions within a mere 30 years. It also
declares its support for climate actions via media announcements and advertisements.
However, the company is continuing to increase its drilling capacity, which will almost guarantee
that the globe will be able to keep pushing into the 2° Celsius temperature rise.
Her resignation letter stated, “Shell is operating beyond the limits of design for our planet’s
systems. Shell has not taken measures to minimize the dangers. Shell does not put
environmental safety first before production.”
In the last decade, Dennett, who runs an unassuming business that counts Shell as the largest
client and has conducted surveys on around 20,000 employees on at least 65 projects across
the globe to identify weaknesses in Shell’s safety practices. Her last job for Shell was to conduct
a survey for two project developments in the Niger Delta, a very polluted region of oil production
Shell did not respond immediately to a request to comment regarding Dennett’s resignation.
The role of the oil industry in the climate crisis has caused some serious difficulties in recruiting
oil giants and their contractors, which include the PR firms are increasingly under scrutiny.
There are increasing numbers of people refusing to work in the industry in any way. The year
before the year, an Exxon engineer who had been with the company for 16 years resigned due
to the company’s lack of action on climate change. And the email from Dennett includes an
appeal for other employees to reconsider their work for big oil. “I’m fortunate enough to make
this decision, and I realize that many working for Shell aren’t in this situation. However, it’s in the
past. If you’re able to walk away, do so. away, and move on to the more sustainable path of your
career and assist in putting everyone else on the path towards a more secure future.”
We spoke with Dennett on her plans to leave the public eye. The transcription of the
conversation is provided below Edited for clarity and length.
What inspired your decision to end your work using Shell?
I’m not able to continue working for, working with, or for the same company who are ignorant of
all alarm bells.
It’s similar to when someone wants you to join the industry of tobacco. I’ve stayed all the time
because I am of the conviction that, while they’re working the people must be protected. We
must keep as many leaks out as we are able to. We should avoid as many major events as we
are able to. But there comes a moment that it’s the right time to break up. I’m at a level where
I’m unable to accept my conscience for supporting an industry that obviously doesn’t have a
clue about what’s happening to the environment or the people it’s going to hurt.
However, the work I’ve performed at Shell has proven to be beneficial in the sense of preventing
harm to people and stopping leaks of gas and oil. I guess I’ve reassured myself by saying that
it’s an investment. In doing this I’m ensuring it’s as safe as it could be while it’s in operation, but
with the belief that it was in the process of transitioning and that it would be moving towards
more renewable energy and reducing exploration and new discoveries. Recently I’ve come to an
awareness that they’re still working on new gas and oil developments and continue to search to
find new resources. This isn’t a good idea.
The warnings are all there. There are three warnings: the International Energy Agency, COP 26,
and the United Nations. [UN Secretary-General[UN Secretary-General] Antonio Guterres says
it’s moral and economic nonsense to keep looking for new sources of gas and oil as well as any
other fossil fuel. The world’s governments have said, no, there is no need for any new oil or gas
extraction. It’s an important thing to see an organization safely transitioning to a new source of
energy, but it’s quite another to say that I am still in favor of the new extractions.
You’ve conducted surveys of a variety of workers in the oil and gas industry from
operators on-site to upper-level executives. What is the company’s culture regarding
It’s double talk. On one hand, Shell is saying, “We’re very focused on safety and we don’t want
any individual to come to any harm.” But, at the same time, we’re causing harm to millions of
people through our continued efforts to extract gas and oil due to the CO2 being released into
This is an industry mostly focused on reducing risks, but they’re also not taking any action to
reduce the risk of climate change.
The surveys we conduct offer a lot of potentials for respondents to provide unrestricted
feedback on questionnaires as well as online surveys. You can choose to type in something that
they believe is in need of improvement. I don’t believe I’ve even heard of anything related to
climate change. Perhaps something about the importance of not polluting locally, the dangers
related to that, and the operating sites. It’s amazing that no one is talking about the issue. I’d say
that just recently, there was a mention of the goal of net-zero in 2050. However, that’s just one
person over 11 years, speaking to thousands of people. That’s shocking. It is in press releases
as well as on the site however, it isn’t a part of the company’s culture.
What sort of response do you like to receive From Shell?
I’d like them to pledge to not search for any more gas and oil reserves everywhere around the
globe. We must move away from fossil fuels if we desire a sustainable future for all. Petroleum
and natural gas are aware of the science: there’s solid evidence to support it, and they have
created the science behind this. What I’d like to have is Shell utilize the capital they have, along
with their human resources knowledge and skills, and their amazing pioneering abilities that led
us to gas and oil 150 years ago, to accelerate the move towards a more sustainable future.
They had a dream of what a positive future might look like but they believed that it was gas and
oil. We are aware that they cannot offer us a secure and stable future any longer.
I would love to see Shell executives and the board take a look at themselves and consider
whether they really believe their dream of more expansion of oil and gas and extraction actually
ensures the future of humanity.
What role can consultants and contractors companies play in pushing the fossil fuel
industry to alter its practices?
It’s not easy to ask individuals to leave a situation, and I’m somewhat uncomfortable telling
people that they could be inclined to do so. Since if you’re a front-line worker in a country such
as Nigeria and the like, you are forced to make the option of being employed in an oil or gas
industry or providing your family with food. They aren’t able to make an exit plan for Shell or BP
unless they want to move to another company that uses fossil fuels. It’s the responsibility of
those who caused the issue initially to resolve the issue.
What sort of situation will a company similar to Shell be in, when larger corporations
In the [annual general meeting] in the coming week, they’re contemplating having some
confirmation on their climate policy and strategies. It’s likely not to be very innovative.
People who have influence must be aware of the goal for the next time. In my opinion, those
with less influence, but have money available need to get the money out.
It’s the kind of starvation that is required of that fossil fuel sector as it’s their bottom line that’s
going to force them to realize the possibility of a different route. This is what I find incredibly
frustrating. I’m not sure why companies like Shell do not convert all their capital, technological
and human resources into a more sustainable plan for the future.