Energy Insights · 28th of March, 2024 · 4 minutes ·

How can oil and gas companies talk about sustainability?

Around the world, consumers, governments, and businesses are repositioning their thoughts on sustainability, how it impacts them and what they can do to be better at achieving it.

The concept is front and centre across all sectors of society as extreme weather patterns and pressing international goals to reach net zero emissions by 2050 dominate the news agenda.

For companies working in oil and gas, talking about sustainability is challenging. Many have successfully adopted sustainable policies and practices but struggle to be heard above the pervading anti-oil narrative in the wider world.

When it comes to communicating about sustainability, establishing and maintaining credibility is tough and depends on being able to talk the walk. That means telling the right people how you support sustainability in a clear, authentic, and assured way. To help you join the sustainability conversation, we’ve developed a sustainability glossary (link to sustainability glossary) with key words and phrases that you’ll need.

First, let’s look at what’s meant by sustainability.

What is sustainability?

The United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability (link to sustainability definition in sustainability glossary) as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” That sounds vague and open to interpretation. The truth is there isn’t a universally accepted definition of sustainability.

In conversation, sustainability is often interchanged with ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance - we wrote a recent blog on ESG -link to blog also link to the definition of ESG in the sustainability glossary). But they aren’t the same. Sustainability is wider ranging than ESG, which provides a performance measurement framework against three specific goals. However, ESG reporting can be an important component of a company’s broader sustainability strategy.

Seize the moment to create clarity

Vagueness and uncertainty present opportunities for oil and gas companies to create definitions of sustainability, supported by clear and specific goals and an understandable plan to achieve them.

Establishing a definition not only provides clarity about your objectives but also allows you to communicate the positive efforts you’re already making towards your goals.

Sure, some stakeholders won’t agree with your definition, but others will appreciate your directness. It’s not about being all things to all people. But it is about making sure the right people understand your offer.

Many companies are seeking sustainability-focused suppliers to help them achieve Scope 3 carbon emissions targets (link to sustainability glossary definition Scope 1,2 and 3 carbon emissions). Don’t get left behind by acting too late - communicating a credible story is vital. Now

Communicate with confidence

As it stands, whether by chance or design, the world will perceive your company as one of four types:

  • An oil and gas traditionalist
  • An energy pragmatist
  • A hidden green
  • A hollow green

If you don’t decide how you want to be seen, your stakeholders will decide for you.

Being assertive in defining sustainability for your company, communicating that definition, evidencing how your actions support the energy transition and advocating and contextualising through a just lens can deliver a clear stance and eliminate any misunderstandings about your position.

Branding and communication play a critical role in the understanding and acceptance of your sustainable offer. In its report ‘How Green Can Green Growth Be?’ McKinsey & Company says: “With demand for greater sustainability only intensifying, the best companies ensure their efforts are clearly communicated by balancing science (a fact-based understanding of all stakeholders needs) art (the articulation of differentiated positioning and compelling narrative), and craft (the seamless delivery of the promise through communication as well as across all touchpoints)”.

In many ways, sustainability is about communication as much as it is about policy and practice. That begins with defining the sustainability story you need to be able to tell.

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Energy Insights · 28th of March, 2024 · 4 minutes ·