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Sustainable Development at Shell (B)

Company name
Shell Chemicals

Jane Wei-Skillern

Harvard Business School

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Sustainable Development at Shell (B)

Year published 

Last year covered in case 

Describes the complex and challenging process by which social and environmental concerns are integrated into the existing strategy of a large, multinational firm. Details the circumstances leading up to a large-scale effort to transform Shell's strategy to take into account principles of sustainable development. This case describes corporate-level sustainable development initiatives and the process through which a comprehensive sustainable development strategy was initiated and developed. 
This case focuses on a specific business within Shell Chemicals, the Close Looped Cleaning technology, that has a strong business/economic basis and, sustainable development component. It shows how corporate-level sustainable development initiatives affect actual business practice and, in particular, the challenge that managers face in responding to multiple and sometimes competing expectations. 

Teaching note

  • N/A

Key Management Reading

  • Ambec, S. & Lanoie, P. (2008). Does it pay to be green? A systematic overview. Academy of Management Perspectives. 45-62
  • Reinhardt, F. (1999). Bringing the Environment Down to Earth. Harvard Business Review. July; 149-157 

Other Readings

  • Sustainable Development at Shell cases (A) and (C)
  • Wilson M, Schwarzman M, Malloy T, Fanning E, Sinsheimer P. (2008) Green Chemistry: Cornerstone to a Sustainable California. Special Report to the California Environmental Protection Agency. University of California Centers for Occupational and Environmental Health
  • Poliakoff, M., & Anastas, P. (2001). A principled stance. Nature, 413(6853), 257.
  • Hjeresen, D.L., Kirchoff, M.M., Lankley, R.L. (2002) Green Chemistry: Environment, economics and competitiveness. Corporate Environmental Strategy, 9(3). 259-266
  • Manley, Anastas, Cue. (2008) Frontiers in Green Chemistry: meeting the grand challenges for sustainability in R&D and manufacturing. Journal of cleaner production. 16:743-750
  • Larson, A. (2006) Illustrating the Finanical Benefits of Green Chemistry. Darden Business Publishing.

Audio/Visual Material

Discussion Questions

  • Which principles of green chemistry are used in this case?
  • How do the principles of green chemistry translate into business benefits? (E.g. Reduced toxic waste = managing environmental risk; Less toxic end product = product differentiation)
  • Are there tradeoffs between the different principles? (E.g. Waste is prevented (Principle 1), but process used more energy (Principle 6) when transporting the laundry?)

Green Chemistry Principle

  • Principle 1 Waste Prevention

Soaps and Detergents
Water Treatment 

Teaching Topic
Corporate Citizenship
Environmental Issues
Global/Transnational Issues
Social Change
Social Needs as Business Opportunity
Technological Change and Development

Management Discipline
Organizational Behaviour

Business Logic
Redefining Markets
Reduced Cost

Environmental Issue
Water Pollution 

Self Identified as Green Chemistry?

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