As the world transitions to a new era of mindful energy production with an ESG outlook, it should come as little surprise that environmental performance reporting found its way to the forefront of investor demands. It’s now clear that if companies want access to capital, they must demonstrate a commitment to both environmental performance and the communities in which they operate.
On the surface, these seem like straightforward, reasonable expectations that all companies, regardless of sector, should adopt. But not all organizations place the same priority on addressing these expectations. Forward-thinking companies had the vision and foresight to embrace responsible operations years ago, while even today, others resist adapting to changing cultural, scientific, and market realities. But the expectations cannot be avoided any longer. Now, while some resist, others have an opportunity to differentiate.
Many leading oil and gas producers have made important advancements in environmental performance. These include improved engineering designs, the implementation of additional environmental controls, and establishing core best practices founded on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) pillars. These initiatives allow for differentiation in natural gas, similar to what has been done in other commodities such as timber, diamonds, fish, coffee, and precious metals. As a result, investors and consumers are looking to reward responsible operators, but companies are leaving themselves vulnerable without independent, trusted data to evidence ESG performance.
This is where third-party certification and data management come into play. Allowing independent, third-party organizations to review, collect, and manage existing data lets an operator avoid the risk of potential conflicts of interest and charges of “greenwashing.” Any ESG reporting done by oil and gas producers will need to be backed by trusted, verifiable, and transparent data. Anything less sows the seeds of doubt, and if that barrier is breached, it will be a long, uphill battle.
Natural gas will be an essential part of the national energy portfolio for the foreseeable future. As such, it’s encouraging to see many industry players embrace responsible operations and take action to improve their environmental performance. For an industry often accused of being slow to adapt, now could very well prove to be a pivotal time in the story of oil and gas.