Waitrose - aren’t they meant to be one of the more ethical supermarkets, a green leader? Well in many ways they are – Greenpeace’s oceans team has worked closely with Waitrose in the past to help them source their fish more sustainably and we know many of those who shop at Waitrose, do so to make an ethical choice.
But back in April we were shocked to learn that Waitrose had a new friend, and that this friend, Shell, was one of the most destructive and exploitative oil companies in the world.
Greenpeace are campaigning hard to save the Arctic from oil drilling. The Arctic is one of the last remaining wild places on the planet, and a vitally important eco-system, home to unique species such as polar bears, narwhals and Arctic foxes. But due to global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels, the Arctic is melting fast, and oil companies – led by Shell - are moving in fast, seeing the melting ice as an opportunity to extract the oil which lies below.
An oil spill in this fragile environment would be a disaster for the creatures that live there, and also for the 5 million people who call it home. Their rivers, land and the food they eat would be wrecked by an oil spill, destroying their way of life that has existed for thousands of years. In a BBC article this week about the threat from oil drilling to indigenous communities in Alaska, where Shell tried and failed to drill this summer, Pete Slaiby – Vice President of Shell – said ‘there’s no sugar coating it, there will be spills’.
So why has Waitrose, a company that cares about both the global environment and the local communities its stores operate in, embarked on a partnership with Shell, and begun to open Waitrose stores on their petrol station forecourts?
We have written to Waitrose three times since April, but their only response so far was to say: “Shell assures me that they intend to meet US legislation and will operate with respect for the environment and people who live in the Arctic”. But Shell has already breached US guidelines this summer, when their ship the Arctic Challenger was found to be responsible for four illegal fluid discharges. And there is no safe way to operate in the Arctic, unpredicatable weather, ice and lack of infrastructure means that oil spills are likely, and in the event of a major blowout, clean-up would be almost impossible.
This Christmas, Waitrose are using their advertising to promote their ‘Community Matters’ scheme where customers in stores receive tokens, and can ‘vote’ which local charity Waitrose will donate money to. This Christmas we urge Waitrose to also remember communities on the other side of the world, who risk having their lives destroyed because of Shell’s oil drilling. Please Waitrose, stay green this Christmas and end the partnership with Shell.