Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Shell puts cash into carbon emission-cutting plan

Petroleum company asks community interest companies how they would tackle environmental concerns. Anita Pati reports.

Community interest companies (CICs) with innovative ideas to combat climate change can apply for a £40,000 grant from Shell UK.

Shell Springboard is a pilot programme that is designed to provide a financial boost for up to 18 small enterprises that can produce compelling and viable business plans for cutting carbon emissions.

For organisations to be considered, they must have been established for at least three months, have fewer than 250 employees and operate in the UK.

CICs, which were introduced in July, are invited to apply along with small businesses to woo the national judging panel of independent experts chaired by Lord Oxburgh, retiring chairman of Shell Transport & Trading.

Louise Johnson, head of social investment at Shell, said: "We really encourage CICs. If they've got a great business plan we'd love to hear from them."

However, charities and voluntary sector organisations cannot apply because the initiative is for enterprises only. "As a big business, Shell has to think entrepreneurially about climate change," said Johnson. "So this is a complementary small programme in the UK trying to encourage small businesses to do the same."

On its website, Shell states: "We believe action is required to lay the foundation for stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere in an equitable and economically responsible way. It is time to pursue stable, market-based policies that help energy users and suppliers pursue innovative energy solutions."

Up to six awards of between £20,000 and £40,000 are on offer in three regions: Scotland and Northern Ireland; northern and central England; and Wales and southern England.

The deadline for applications is 4 November. Winners will be announced in early 2006 and have no obligations other than to prove their funding was spent on the project and to take part in any publicity.

CIC status is a new form of limited company launched by the Government and Companies House. So far, 20 organisations have applied to the CIC regulator at Companies House and six have successfully registered.

anita.pati@haynet.com

COMMENT

Robert Napier, chief executive, WWF-UK

Oil and gas companies have no road map for the future and are continuing with long-term investment, which will pump out even more fossil fuels.

They admit to looking for oil and gas in politically challenging areas and, more importantly, in ecologically sensitive areas.

Although this small community interest company initiative is to be applauded, Shell needs to redraw its own road map and redirect its own business towards clean technologies for the future.

The company is investing more than $20bn (£10.9bn) in the Sakhalin oil project in eastern Russia, an initiative that is threatening the feeding ground of the critically endangered grey whale. Shell's project will probably drive this species towards extinction. This is a flagrant breach of Shell's own environmental standards.

The WWF will continue to lobby the financial sector not to support the Sakhalin oil development and wants more than this token gesture from the oil giant.

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