Social licence is an important consideration for industry, Norwegian delegate says
A panel discussion at the Noia conference at the St. John’s Convention Centre Wednesday focused on public confidence in the oil and gas industry.
Panellists spoke about how oil companies can gain public acceptance and, ultimately, approval of their work.
“To get the legitimacy in the classic sense, you’re really talking about engagement, communication with your stakeholders, the local communities … to the extent of having some level of respect and understanding of what their issues and desires are,” said Alex Ferguson, vice-president for policy and environment with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).
He recommended oil companies interested in beginning a new project, or entering a new area, adopt the local community’s perspective on their plans and remember the adage of “say what you do and do what you say.”
Fellow panellist and deputy director general of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Espen Myhra, suggested social licence is the foundation for all industrial activities, but particularly those focused on resource extraction.
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“The people have to trust that what the industry is doing is safe, they have to see that there’s something in it for them and, last but not least, the people ... faced with the negative consequences of that activity also have to have their share of the positive benefits from the activity,” he said.
“And achieving this acceptance is not an easy task.”
He said social licence is not always a concern for individual companies, but is a regional, industry concern — pointing to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as support for his argument.
In responding to questions supplied by Noia members, Myhra said oil and gas development in Norway faces its share of public debates and public-relations challenges, noting there have been debates and disputes about seismic vessels active on fishing grounds.
In responding to such debates, he said the discussion should be welcomed, with factual information readily available to underpin it.
“I strongly believe that if the public has proper information, the public is able to make good decisions on very complicated issues,” he said.
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