Environmental dumping, tax pressure… why Shell is moving its headquarters to the UK

Posted on November 17th, 2021

In the post-Brexit context, Shell is leaving the Netherlands for the United Kingdom. While the oil major has been ordered by a Dutch court to take measures to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, timing raises questions. Some experts point to the risk above all that Shell will thus evade new European regulations aimed at holding companies accountable. Unless tax on dividend is the main reason…

This is a blow to the Dutch government. Oil major Royal Dutch Shell, one of the Netherlands’ flagships, is looking to move its headquarters and tax location to London. The blow is even more painful for The Hague as the group will propose to its shareholders during its next general meeting on December 10 to rename Shell plc while abandoning the Dutch, a direct reference to its homeland. Officially, the hydrocarbon giant arouses a desire for simplification by relocating its tax residence to the United Kingdom. On social networks, we mainly pay attention to the timing of this decision making. “In the spring, the Dutch judges condemned the decarbonization of shale more quickly. Suddenly shale moved to Great Britain”, Christian Gaulier, director general of the Toulouse School of Economics, explains.

Last May, a Dutch court ordered the tanker to reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030. a decision “historic”To which the firm appealed. Has Shell decided to leave the Netherlands to avoid this climate justice? Miliudefancy, the branch of Friends of the Earth in the Netherlands, at the core of the court action, does not believe it . “This news has no negative consequences for this case.“, declared Peer de Rijk, one of the activists. Specifically, the condemnation pertains to global emissions of shale, not just those emitted in the Netherlands. “It doesn’t change anything”, Fran├žois de Cambiare, an associate attorney for the Seattle Avocats, abounds. The expert’s concerns relate to another topic: European rules while the United Kingdom recently left the union.

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avoid european regulations

To make companies accountable, Europe is preparing two big projects. First, a directive on the reporting of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, called the CSRD for Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, which aims to strengthen corporate transparency on sustainability issues. Subsequently, Brussels is actively implementing a duty of vigilance to multinationals to ensure a production activity that respects human rights and the environment in their supply chain. Two rules that Shell can avoid except for Great Britain, the Justices of Notre Affair fear ripples.

“This may impact on the applicability of future European Directives in the post-Brexit context”, She moves on. “The question also arises about the objective of the EU’s carbon neutrality in 2050”, says Fran├žois Cambiar. Of course, the United Kingdom has a “duty of care”, which laid the foundation for the duty of care, and is also working on a system equivalent to the CSRD, but NGOs and experts are concerned about a potential “dumping environment”.

Another topic of stress: taxation and taxation of dividends. While the Netherlands is regularly taxed as a tax haven, the government has implemented a 15% tax on dividends which Shell dislikes. According to the Financial Times, the government launched a last-minute effort to eliminate it and thus keep Shell under the Dutch flag. In 2020, Anglo-Dutch agri-food group Unilever opted to leave The Hague to reach London.

Marina Fabre, @fabre_marina

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