What can a multi-billion dollar oil company do to expand its stated objective to help deliver “long-term socio-economic benefits”? Oxfam is suggesting that Chevron should disclose payments to governments wherever it operates, so that citizens can use the information to track how revenues are being used to promote health, education, and other measures to fight poverty.
In a letter to Chevron shareholders, Oxfam is urging investors to support a shareholder proposal on fiscal transparency calling on the company to disclose annually all taxes, royalties, fees, bonuses, and other payments to specific national governments.
Chevron paid more than $40 billion in taxes to governments around the world in 2008. Knowing how much money Chevron pays to the governments of Nigeria, Chad, Angola, Myanmar, and other countries rich in oil and struggling in poverty can make a significant difference for citizens pushing for government accountability.Chevron is a participant in the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), which is promoting disclosure of resource revenues paid to governments, and has stated in its 2008 corporate responsibility report that it supports the mission of the EITI:“Chevron believes that disclosure of revenues received by governments and payments made by extractive industries to governments could lead to improved governance in resource-rich countries. The transparent and accurate accounting of these funds contributes to stable, long-term investment climates, economic growth and the well-being of communities.”
Unfortunately, the voluntary EITI initiative works only where governments have the political will to implement the program. In many Chevron countries of operation the host government has either not signed up to EITI or not fully implemented it. Only 2 out of 22 countries facing a March 2010 deadline to have their implementation of EITI independently verified met the deadline.
Leadership role for Chevron
Chevron has an additional opportunity to take a leadership role in advocating for resource revenue transparency as the US Congress debates the proposed Energy Security through Transparency Act of 2009. This law, if enacted in its proposed form, would require all oil companies like Chevron that are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to disclose payments to governments. The law would ensure more disclosure in resource-rich countries, whether or not the government is participating in the voluntary approach.
The Oxfam shareholder proposal concludes: “Chevron should practice the highest possible degree of disclosure of payments from the company to host governments to maintain its industry leadership position on this critical issue and to ensure that its investments contribute to increased economic development and political stability.”
Oxfam hopes for strong support for the proposal at the annual Chevron shareholders meeting on May 26th.