Diversity, LGBT+ rights and Shell

Authors: Nina Jatana, Jece Shunmugam, Lewis Parker
  • Reading time: 5 min.
  • Posted on: May 18, 2021

Read on for a handpicked selection of the good, the bad, and the one to watch in the world of social impact communications. This week, we’re highlighting a new screenwriting fellowship, the reaction to the UK government’s LGBTQ+ rights conference and Shell’s big vote.

| NAILED IT: A new screenwriting fellowship for under-represented talent

Bisha K Ali, the brains behind TV shows ‘Sex Education’ and Disney’s ‘Ms. Marvel’ has teamed up with Sky and Netflix to launch a new Screenwriters Fellowship for under-represented talent. The Fellowship provides six aspiring writers with a year’s worth of salary to support them in an industry beset with multiple barriers to entry – especially for those coming from ethnic minorities. For many young, aspiring writers the fear of financial insecurity is a barrier to entry. Bisha’s goal is to demonstrate the diversity of talent that could exist if that wasn’t an issue. 

This is mirrored in Ofcom’s own 2020 report of diversity in the television and radio industry, in which Chief Executive Dame Melanie Dawes acknowledges the need to break down the barriers in social class and geography. 

She notes, “Compared to the UK population. TV workers are about twice as likely to have grown up in a professional home, and twice as likely to have been to a private school.” 

This is why what Bisha K Ali is doing is so important and groundbreaking. She has proved that authenticity and credibility can attract support – in this case, two of the biggest names in broadcasting – to open the floodgates to previously unseen and unheard talent. She isn’t a top television executive but from using her first-hand experiences and identifying a problem, she has managed to produce a creative strategy to positively shape diversity in screenwriting. 

| ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: UK government to host LGBTQ+ rights conference

On Monday, to coincide with International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the UK government announced that it will host the first-ever global conference on LGBTQ+ rights in London next year.

However, the news of the conference has been met with dismay given the current government’s track record on LGBTQ+ issues, including their recent decision to delay a conversion therapy ban and the rolling back of trans rights through scrapping reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. New voter registration laws announced last week are also expected to disproportionately affect minorities including trans people and those who are non-gender-conforming.

The conference announcement follows the news that the government’s LGBT advisory panel would be disbanding following Jayne Ozanne’s resignation after accusing ministers of creating a “hostile environment” for LGBT people.

Whilst many will be rightfully celebrating the conference as a place to convene and look ahead to the future for the LGBTQ+ community, we should also ensure we’re holding our government accountable for their track record back at home. They are not a bastion of LGBT rights.

| ONE TO WATCH: SHELL’s big vote

All eyes are on Shell today as it becomes the latest big corporate to face pressure from climate activists and investors, who are calling for real action on reducing emissions and limiting global warming. 

The company put its Energy Transition Strategy to an advisory vote at its AGM. The strategy sets out the company’s ‘target’ to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Royal Dutch Shell is one of the oil and gas ‘supermajors’ and, measured by 2020 revenues, the fifth-largest company in the world. It is a major contributor to global carbon emissions.

Since being released the proposal has quickly unravelled, with analysis (such as this by ACCR) showing the plan to be inadequate and not aligned to the Paris Agreement. The strategy contains a nice promise for the distant year of 2050, but it fails to substantially decrease emissions this decade. It, therefore, undermines the world’s chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Shareholders had the option to back the company’s proposed climate action plan or support an alternative resolution filed by Follow This and the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility. They’re calling for Shell to take tougher action by setting short and medium-term targets in line with the Paris Agreement. A significant number of shareholders (30%, up from 14% last year), voted in favour of the Follow This climate resolution despite the board’s advice to vote against it. This sends a clear signal that the company must take real, meaningful, and timely action on reducing carbon emissions.

In previous years the board of Shell has proven to only respond to engagement and voting at its AGMs. Therefore the Follow This resolution passing should force the company to go back to the drawing board and be more ambitious as it is clear investors are not convinced by Shell’s plan which ultimately would lead to more emissions this decade. As the pressure mounts and the momentum builds, let’s ensure we’re ensuring the climate crisis continues to be at the top of investors and companies agendas.