SPE President Presents Industry’s Responsibility to Communities
The oil and gas industry’s role in changing lives around the planet is not limited to providing energy. The lives of those living in areas where the industry operates are affected directly by those operations. During a keynote luncheon speech at the 2017 Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Conference—North America, Janeen Judah, SPE’s 2017 president, highlighted the industry’s efforts and desires to improve the lives of people in the regions in which it operates.
“Generally, when we go into a foreign country as an operator or as a joint venture, we have an obligation to provide community development,” she said.
Judah pointed out the immense effect the industry can have on a community and the responsibility that comes with that.
“When we go in and we drop a billion dollars or 5 billion dollars, or 10 billion dollars in a local economy, that place will never be the same,” she said. “We’re going to change that place for 20, 30, 50 years, and we want to be good citizens. But, we also want to be able to be sustainable in what we do.”
Working with local governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), she said, is the best way to provide that sustainable development.
“Our business is not delivering health care or delivering primary education, so we need to partner with NGOs and local government to be able to make that sustainable and make a better life for the folks who live in the places where we operate,” she said.
Judah asked the audience if the industry can improve its collaborative efforts.
“Can we, as an industry, over all, partner more with NGOs and direct-aid agencies in countries where we operate? Can we do a better job of partnering with other organizations?”
Ultimately, she suggested, the industry can improve.
“I think often we can, and here’s really the reason: We’re often in countries that have little or no infrastructure,” Judah said. “We are committed to community investment.”
This commitment to investing in the community and its infrastructure, Judah pointed out, goes beyond profit.
“We really don’t have a profit motive from that,” she said. “We’re going to make money from the oil and gas we produce. It’s not like a toll road authority that might build a toll road and then try to generate revenue off that and try to pay it off. We don’t really want to make money off of it. But, we have an obligation to the country that we’re in.”
Meeting that obligation, however, often comes with its own set of challenges. Judah used the example of providing education.
“Sometimes, we have to think about creative solutions around education because, often, the ministry of education doesn’t have the ability even to pay the teachers,” she said. “So, that’s often an issue, but there is always a need everywhere we operate to have more schools.”