Trust, transparency and pipelines

“Generally speaking, do you have a positive, neutral or negative impression of the pipelines that move oil and gas across Canada?”

According to a 2014 poll conducted by CEPA, 16 per cent of those surveyed said they had a negative impression, 49 per cent were neutral and 35 per cent had a positive impression. While positive impressions have increased since 2012, we still need to improve those numbers.

Dr. Brenda Kenny, CEPA’s former president and CEO, took part in a panel discussion on a topic key to improving those numbers last week at GLOBE 2014 in Vancouver. The panel – which included representatives from business, government and non-profit sectors ­­­– discussed the role of regulation in encouraging companies to disclose sustainability information and how that disclosure can actually be better for business.

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The GLOBE 2014 panel on “The Changing Regulatory Landscape: Catalyzing Business in the 21st century.” Dr. Brenda Kenny is third from the left. Photo courtesy of GLOBE 2014.

A little background on GLOBE 2014:

GLOBE is a pretty awesome initiative. It’s an international forum that brings together thousands of delegates and more than 150 speakers to talk about business and the environment.

The panel Dr. Kenny took part in was called “The Changing Regulatory Landscape: Catalyzing Business in the 21st century,” and her role was to discuss the impact of disclosure on driving positive outcomes for public interest.

Our equation for earning trust:

We’ve shown this equation before in our blog, but it’s worth sharing again. This is how we want to work to earn the trust of Canadians:

Social License

Basically, in order to achieve a social license to operate and build pipelines, we need to continually improve our performance in all parts of our business ­­– including sustainability. We also need to communicate about that performance transparently with the public (disclosure is part of that communication). Engagement is also key because without engagement we can’t understand the public’s expectations, questions or concerns.

What role does regulation play in transparency and trust?

Regulations that encourage disclosure play an important role in securing and maintaining trust, Dr. Kenny pointed out. Here are a couple reasons why:

Regulations set the bar and ensure consistency: Regulations, whether imposed by government or industry, set the bar for high performance and drive consistency across an entire industry.

Note: Disclosure practices aren’t only imposed by governments. At CEPA, we encourage transparency through our CEPA Integrity First® program. The program helps us to measure performance and to create best practices for transmission pipeline companies.

Regulations provide assurance: Regulations give the public assurance that someone knowledgeable and independent is setting and enforcing expectations.

The caveat is that regulations and disclosure need to be about more than reporting data. Dr. Kenny explained that through disclosure we must actually answer the questions people are really asking.

Can regulation and disclosure help spur innovation?

The regulation process needs to be a mechanism for innovation and constant improvement. A good example of regulations and innovation working hand in hand is Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation, which uses carbon taxes to fund clean-technology projects, some of which will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector.

Why we care about trust

At the conference, Dr. Kenny stated with optimism that Canada is in a unique position because there are few large transparent countries that are also large energy producers.

Energy is a driver of our economy, but right now our lack of pipeline infrastructure is a barrier to our economic growth and stability. This is also bad news for sustainability because economic stability is what allows us to innovative and to lead the world in finding solutions to issues like climate change. But our industry knows that without a social license and the trust of Canadians, we won’t be able to do any of this. The path to trust is through transparency.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.