AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Forget the rubber rafts, the wet
suits, the handcuffs.
Greenpeace activists on Tuesday brandished a new weapon they hope
will make one of the world's largest oil companies bend to their will:
the stock market.
The Amsterdam-based environmentalist group announced the purchase of
$240,000 worth of Royal Dutch/Shell Group equity to try to
pressure the Anglo-Dutch energy conglomerate to build a huge solar panel
The investment was a milestone for the activists, who are better
known for their headline-grabbing sabotage missions against underwater
nuclear testing, toxic waste dumping and other ecological threats.
''We are trying to play their own game,'' said Greenpeace
spokesman Sander van Egmond. ''The shareholders own the company. It's a very
direct way of influencing the executives.''
The purchase of 4,400 shares gives Greenpeace only a tiny
percentage of Shell's total stock and offers the group no real leverage over
the company. But it meets the minimum required to allow Greenpeace to
communicate via the stock exchange with other shareholders, whose identities are
otherwise kept secret.
The group hopes to use the right to communicate to drum up
support in advance of a May 9 shareholders' meeting that will discuss a
proposal to have Shell build a factory producing 5 million solar panels a year.
Greenpeace power to persuade other owners of Shell stock to consider
Greenpeace's proposals, rather than obtaining any real leverage
over the company.
To woo backing from the owners of the remaining 2.14 billion
Amsterdam-listed shares of the company, Greenpeace commissioned a
study from consulting group KPMG estimating that Shell could get a 15
percent return on investment in solar energy.
''We think we have a good argument,'' said Van Egmond.
Shell spokesman Henk Bunder said the firm was ''very happy'' with
Greenpeace's investment and welcomed its activists to speak at the
''We also see solar as a business and we see growth in that
business,'' he said. Shell, however, envisions a gradual expansion into solar
energy after market demand grows, Bunder said.
According to Van Egmond, the investment was financed with a mix of
options in a way ''so that we don't make any profit or losses on
In a similar move, Greenpeace said it is working with a group of
owners of more than 150,000 shares of British Petroleum-Amoco to oppose
that firm's Northstar oil pipeline project at an April 13 general meeting.
The new strategy is worlds away from previous Greenpeace campaigns,
when its members intercepted freighters on the high seas and
shackled themselves to the gates of pollution-belching industrial plants.
Indeed, it was against Shell that Greenpeace scored one of its
biggest coups five years ago, occupying a disused North Sea oil platform, the
Brent Spar, and refusing to budge until company abandoned plans to ditch the
hulking structure at sea.
However, the organization has suffered a slump in donations and
membership as interest in its confrontational tactics has waned.
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