Stand Tall and Speak Up: Beyond Technology—Our Commitment to Social Responsibility
- Eve S. Sprunt (2006 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 2006
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 10 - 10
- 2006. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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New opportunities will increasingly involve heavy oil, or stranded natural gas, or resources in ultra-deep water. Large investments in infrastructure will be required to bring these resources to market, so it will take years just to recover the initial investments. While we are accustomed to thinking of our industry as being built on long-term relationships, the rise in the percentage of projects with huge investments in facilities will increase the importance of maintaining good relationships. For relationships to withstand the tests of time, they must be win-win for all the stakeholders, not just those who sign the contracts.
In long-term relationships, many issues that are covered by the broad category of social responsibility will take on greater importance. Definitions of social responsibility vary, but generally embrace ethical business practices, community economic development, human rights, indigenous-population care, worker rights and benefits, and a broad range of environmental issues (including climate change, water management, waste disposal, and biodiversity). Social responsibility is an umbrella term that can be considered to encompass all of what we now classify as health, environment, and safety matters.
Public perception of how we perform on the broad portfolio of social-responsibility issues has a major impact on our industry’s image and plays a major role in maintaining our industry’s ability to operate. In comparison with other multinational industries, the public tends to rank the petroleum industry very low. Some oil and gas companies have placed a larger emphasis on social responsibility than others and indications are that the public recognizes the commitment these companies have made. However, when major problems erupt, the industry as a whole suffers.
Trade associations have taken the lead on social responsibility issues. The Intl. Assn. of Oil & Gas Producers (www.ogp.org.uk) and the Intl. Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Assn. (www.ipieca.org), both of which were founded in 1974, are notable examples. Their memberships include private and state-owned petroleum companies, oil and gas associations, and upstream service companies. While these trade associations are providing valuable services, I believe that individual-member organizations such as SPE can also make major contributions. We can leverage our access to our almost 70,000 members worldwide.
Just as for safety, where we have learned that knowledge and accountability are everyone’s business, the other social responsibility issues must not be viewed as primarily the responsibility of experts. With social responsibility issues, liability extends far beyond the confines of our company facilities. The issues that host communities consider most urgent vary widely. We need everyone to serve as a sentinel, alert to the potential opportunities and threats associated with social responsibility concerns.
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