Sustainability in the Oil and Gas Sector: Contribution to UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (Sustainability Series, #4)

17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed upon by the United Nations members in September 2015. Listed below, these goals address the world’s biggest challenges in terms of social development, environmental sustainability, and economic growth.

Achieving the 17 listed goals in this decade requires tremendous efforts and collaborations from governments, NGOs, industries, civil society as well as the industries. The oil and gas industry is a pillar of global economic development and influences many countries’ economic development, in ways that are both positive and negative.

As we’ve previously stated, this industry is already making significant headway with initiatives for reducing carbon emissions, to be considerate of environmental impact. And to an extent, they’re putting their money where their mouth is, but more on that later.

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Can the oil and gas industry contribute to all 17 goals?

The short answer? Yes. But it’s not simple. But you already knew that, right?

Given their far-ranging impact, oil and gas companies can have a direct and indirect impact on all 17 SDGs! The ways to get there are plenty; both additive and subtractive. For example, initiatives such as affordable energy, equal opportunity employment, and skill development, can enable the industry to advance social development goals. However, the need of the hour is to tackle climate change, and the industry’s proactive technical and

operational measures are a welcome step in the direction. Needless to mention, the industry can and should do more — a lot more.

Integrating Sustainable Development Goals focus in daily operations

Oil and gas companies can incorporate SDGs in their operations by including them into their core business through processes, systems, and policies:

· Company governance can establish sustainability-focused standards and systems around the environment, safety, health, supply, and procurement.

· Involving stakeholders in the SDG focused roadmaps through regular reporting

· Identifying individual impacts of the projects concerning environmental, economic, and social standards.

· Risk assessments in accordance with the SDGs by assessments and due diligence

· Active dialog with governments, local communities, and stakeholders to establish trust and accountability

· Research and development in the technological arena can spearhead the path to the SDGs.

All Sustainable Development Goals are connected – Resulting Impact

Most of the 17 SDGs are closely connected and intertwined in impact. Achieving a few of them will rely on the other goals as a supporting condition. For example, the goal of Climate Action is listed as a stand-alone goal, but it has connotations for all the 17 SDGs and addressing it will contribute in the direction of reaching the other goals too. Climate change is likely to disproportionately affect the weakest sections of society, which are addressed in the SDG-1 (ending poverty), gender equality (SDG-5), and reduced inequalities (SDG-10).

Climate change can also jeopardize food security (SDG-2), affect the supply of clean water and sanitation (SDG-6), and preserving biodiversities. (SDG 14-15). Let’s talk about a few specific goals to achieve which, oil and gas operations will be forever transformed.

Sustainable Development Goals # 9: Building resilient industries, infrastructure, and foster innovation

Economic growth is closely connected with infrastructure and sustainable industrial practices. Development needs energy, communications, human resources, and transportation. Technology innovation is vital for addressing environmental and economical challenges. Yet, outdated infrastructure and technology in desperate need of an overhaul remain a pervasive challenge in developing countries. The oil and gas industry frequently invests in infrastructure, telecommunications, and energy projects in these countries for operational benefit. Extending the earned benefits from the infrastructural projects to fuel

economic development is a cost-effective way of advancing technology transfer and catalyzing economic development in the host nations for such projects.

Some additional measures the industry can undertake around this SDG are:

· Develop sustainable and reliable infrastructure to support their operations as well as local human resources and development.

· Endorse sustainable and inclusive employment to contribute to reducing societal inequalities and increasing national employment.

· Support small-scale and ancillary industries in developing countries by integrating them into the operational value chain.

· Heighten emphasis on resource efficiency and the adoption of clean and environment-friendly processes.

· Support local initiatives of technology development to support local employment and industrial diversity.

· Encourage shared usage of infrastructures such as water treatment facilities, power plants, and roads along with the governments.

· Invest considerable in scientific and technological research to foster innovation, thereby benefitting not only the industrial operations but society at large.

Sustainable Development Goals # 12: Sustainable Consumption

Improving efficiency in production and supply chain is a necessity. However, to achieve sustainability goals, altering consumption patterns and waste management is essential.

The growing middle class in industrialized and developing counties must be educated and nudged towards mindful consumption for sustainable management of the world’s resources. Addressing issues of waste management, energy demand, resource conservation, and usage of renewable energy can help evolve consumer behavior.

Measures such as uniform carbon pricing and elimination of fossil fuel subsidies can encourage opting for low-carbon options. Mitigating impacts of harmful operational activities like gas flaring, responsible elimination of waste, and sharing the knowledge of energy efficiency can go a long way in reducing the carbon footprints of oil and gas companies.

In the end, sustainability is a shared responsibility of all the sections of the society to ensure a healthy balance – be it biodiversity, natural resources, and sustainable living. We must know that economic, social, environmental issues are interconnected and interdependent.

To learn more about how Eugenie has helped oil and gas majors ensure a profitable transition to operational sustainability, talk to us today or feel free to reach out to us at

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