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We carefully consider the potential environmental impact of our activities and how local communities might be affected, both before projects begin and during operations.

Our environmental standards focus on key areas such as managing emissions, reducing our energy use, flaring less gas produced with oil, preventing spills and leaks, minimising our use of fresh water and conserving biodiversity. (See “Environmental performance”). We work to manage and minimise environmental impact from our operations.

We use energy-efficiency technologies and processes to reduce our carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and are also working to advance carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies which could reduce cumulative global CO2 emissions by around 15% by 2050. (See “Carbon capture and storage”).

Our standards

Our approach is to comply with environmental regulation, to continually improve our performance in line with best practice, and to prepare for future risks and opportunities. We draw on external standards and guidelines such as those developed by the World Bank and International Finance Corporation to inform our approach. Our own strict environmental standards are designed to meet or exceed regulatory requirements – they are detailed in our HSSE & SP Control Framework. (See “Our standards”). Shell standards are applied to joint ventures that we control. We also encourage our joint-venture partners to apply materially equivalent standards for those we do not control.

Detailed assessments of the potential environmental, social and health impacts are carried out when we plan new projects. These assessments help us to manage and reduce impacts on the environment or on communities during construction, operation and, when relevant, at the decommissioning stage of projects. The results are made publicly available where we are legally permitted to do so. Our Control Framework requires all of our major installations including refineries, chemical plants, gas plants and permanently staffed oil and gas production facilities to be certified to ISO 14001.

Our environmental performance is managed in the following ways:

Air quality

Emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds from the production and processing of fossil fuels can affect air quality. We work to reduce air pollution from our operations. We also help customers, including shipping and industrial customers, to reduce their impact on air quality by using our products. (See “Fuels and products”).

Sensitive environments

Our projects can affect local biodiversity and dependent communities. When we operate in critical habitats – that is, those that are rich in biodiversity and important to the conservation of endangered species – we apply stringent mitigation standards. This includes reviewing how local people may depend on biodiversity and ecosystems for essentials such as fresh water and food for their subsistence. We partner with major conservation organisations – Earthwatch, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International – to help us improve our performance. We also develop biodiversity action plans for major operations in sensitive environments. (See “Environment partners”).

Our approach is to identify and minimise any impacts during planning, operations and at decommissioning. We implement measures to restore habitats or ecosystems that are close to our operations. For example, we are working on marshland restoration in Iraq, near our Majnoon operations, with Wetlands International. (See “Iraq”).

The biodiversity of the world’s oceans is at risk from overfishing, climate change, pollution from plastics, and other challenges. Protecting this biodiversity will be an increasingly important priority for the world. Shell collaborates with governments, non-governmental organisations and other experts to identify measures to conserve the marine environment.

Waste management

We aim to reduce the amount of waste we generate and reuse or recycle where possible. Our main sources of non-hazardous waste include soil from excavations and drill cuttings (materials removed from the ground during drilling such as rock and soil). Where possible, hazardous waste – such as process water from our chemical plants and refineries – is treated on-site or removed for treatment or safe disposal.

The decommissioning of retired platforms and infrastructure is also potentially a major source of waste. Where possible, we recycle part of the platforms once they are brought to shore. (See “Focus on decommissioning”).

Green infrastructure

We are looking into ways to integrate natural systems into the design of our projects. This approach, known as green infrastructure, benefits the environment by creating or improving habitats, while increasing the resilience of our facilities and reducing costs.

For example, coastal erosion can be a threat to the stability of pipelines as well as to people’s homes and livelihoods. In Louisiana, USA, we are exploring the use of nature-based solutions to stabilise the embankments near our pipeline and to prevent erosion. Over time, these pipeline corridors can create new habitats for water organisms which will also benefit fishing communities.