Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Canadian Responsible Investment Conference: Canada’s Oil Industry and Investor Engagement

by Travis Strain

This session was very informal and structured in a Q + A format. The Facilitator was Susan Enefer of BC Investment Management Corporation and the industry representatives were Bob Walker of NEI Investments and Gordon Lambert of Suncor Engery.

The session explained, from two different angles, how shareholder engagement works and how it could be better in the future. There were 3 main points that came out of this presentation.

1) The future of corporate engagement for the oil sands from Bob’s perspective revolves around developing a measuring stick by which progress gets measured. Currently there is no easy way to judge the progress of the industry and this needs to change.

2) From Gord’s perspective, successful corporate engagement comes from the creation of “creative tension” between the two opposing parties. There is a fine line between creative tension and what he calls emotional tension. Emotional tension is detrimental and causes the two parties to become deadlocked with neither party seeing progress. This is what happens often when NGOs attempt to engage companies with media tactics.

3) In order for progress to be made on the company side, the two parties must come to the table to find solutions. They must come with the idea of having a solution oriented discussion. Communication between the two opposing parties is essential to ensure that the best possible solution is found. There also needs to be adequate conversation regarding how the energy companies will be judged on their progress and the expectations.

The final part of the session discussed a question from the floor about the people living along the Athabasca River and the problems that have arisen there. Gord used this part of the discussion as an example of how two parties can come to a complete gridlock due to extreme polarization between views. Gord stated that in order to solve this gridlock, both parties need to build trust amongst each other and come to the table to find the best solution.

No comments:

Post a Comment