Finding Green in Black: Gas Producers in Canada and Sustainability

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by Mabel Wong,

Gas and oil companies have produced annual reports published for the public so that they are transparent and showcase their corporate social responsibility (CSR). The requirement of environmental regulation came about in the 1980s, pushing for companies to generate annual reports on CSR. Furthermore, CSRs would supposedly attract consumers, attract investors, attract potential employees, and increase innovation [1]. Sustainability, which can encompass the economy, environment, and social realms, refers to growth without putting strains on the environment or depleting its resources [2]. In a paper written by Escobar & Vredenburg (2011), ExxonMobil and Shell were compared to reveal how their business models could promote either sustainable development or economic growth [3]. Shell could not compare in economic growth to ExxonMobil, but would in the future contain better measures to work against sustainable development pressures (such as keeping trust with stakeholders). Still in 2014, ExxonMobil creates larger profits than Shell although it makes less revenue [4].

How sustainable are three of the top oil producers listed from Alberta Oil Magazine‘s Top 100 Gas Producers in Canada, Suncor, ExxonMobil, and Husky Energy Inc., compared to one of the top sustainable oil companies Royal Dutch/Shell, named from Corporate Knights Top 100 list [5][6]? Hypothetically, the highest profit company should be able to invest the most money into sustainable development. From highest profit, ExxonMobil should be first, Suncor second, and lastly, Husky Energy Inc. The quality of their report will determine the effectiveness in sustainable development, as the reports serve as a reflection of the company’s values in sustainable development.

It is interesting to note that all companies have produced their annual company reports with different names, although they focus on the same topics. Suncor uses a “Report on Sustainability”, ExxonMobil, the “Corporate Citizenship Report”, Husky, a “Community Report”, and finally Shell published their “Sustainability Report”. This brings about the question of whether or not the companies are choosing to focus on sustainability or something else.

All companies create environmental partnerships or invest in projects for the environment. However, the amount of participation that is incorporated into the company’s values, differentiates one company over all others. Shell’s report is most influential and innovative.

Based on the quality of transparency, reader-friendliness, and information provided, I would have to rank the companies in the following order:

  1. ExxonMobil
  2. Husky
  3. Suncor

Suncor does poorly in presenting to the public its efforts in environmental management. It is specific and unspecific at the same time, having too much information and not focusing on the most important elements. Husky and Suncor both have faults and strengths, almost tying between second and third. Husky, the second in the list, passes Suncor in its environmental efforts due to the fact that its report is reader-friendly and puts good lights onto the efforts it carries out in the company. Finally, ExxonMobil, is runner-up to Shell, because it does a good job in expanding on the selected case studies it provides, with good science and proof.

Suncor: Sales ($38.4 bill.)

Suncor generated an attractive table, revealing past, present, and future plans and activities carried out from 2012 and onwards. Their text is detailed, but their examples are elongated and does not provide a broader overview of other actions carried out over the year.  They use general terms that are not quantifiable, making readers question their commitment to completing their actions [7].


Programs Other Highlights
  • Environmental Excellence Plan (overall goals) – use Environmental Excellence Fund (2013)
  • Environmental Information Management System
  • COSIA Land Environmental Priority Area Projects
    • Participation in remediation projects
  • Energy Management Systems
  • Land stewardship
  • Partnership with Alberta Conservation Association



Suncor Report on Sustainability [7]



ExxonMobil: Sales($394 bill.)

Has an appealing report, with infographs and colourful graphs, they highlight case studies, and goes in-depth into details that are descriptive and understandable. They reveal projects of interest to the public such as remediation of used land that they turned into a shopping centre. The report focuses on results and impacts made [8].

Programs Other Highlights
  • ESHIA (Environmental Aspects Assessment of Environmental, Socioeconomic and Health Impact Assessment) processes/ Environmental Socio
  • Economic and Health Management Plan
    • A fancy name for an EIA- Center for Offshore Safety (COS)- ExxonMobil Environmental Services (Remediation of sites)
  • Partnerships for research on environmental technologies and community investment- Public participation, responsibility to communities

ExxonMobil Corporate Citizenship Report [8]


Husky: Sales($22.3 bill.)

Layout is reader-friendly, however, it lacks a lot of detail. It only shows graphs that are comparative to previous years, meaning environmental measurements are not revealed. It is overall quick and concise [9].

Programs                            Other Highlights
  • Use of Environmental Performance Reporting System (unavailable for viewing)
    • Emissions to air and water
    • Groundwater quality
    • Soil quality around facility
    • Some wildlife studies at certain sites
    • Upstream and downstream facility evaluations
    • Inactive site monitoring
    • THIRD party used to monitor Husky’s GHG emissions
  • Pipeline Integrity Management Program
  • Monthly Husky Operational Integrity Management System
  • Fugitive Emission (hydrocarbon leaks from valves, or pipes in a plant) Management Program
  • Large participation with external organizations to ensure environmental protection and monitoring, as well as volunteerism or investments in environmental projects


Husky Community Report [9]


Shell: Sales ($451.4 bill.)

Has a very extensive and detailed report which includes sound science and full transparency. Ìt is easy to read, and includes detailed information which reflects its environmental impacts and actions they have taken. Their examples provide insight onto how they manage their projects with careful insight to impact reduction and responsibility [10].

Programs                            Other Highlights
  • Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD)- Participation with University of Texas to study sites
  • Partnership with local authorities to reduce impact on water resources by treating water that they use, which can also be used by the government for public purposes (dual-use)
  • Investment for training with their suppliers to meet their standards in developing countries
  • Collaboration with environmental partners (including International Union for Conservation of Nature and The Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International

Shell Sustainability Report [10]



[1] Hilson, G. (2012). Corporate social responsibility in the extractive industries: Experience from developing countries, Resources Policy, 37, 131-137.

[2] Yusuf, Y.Y., Gunasekaran, A., Musa, A., El-Berishy, N.M., Abubakar, T., & Ambursa, H.M. (2013). The UK oil and gas supply chains: An empirical analysis of sustainable measures and performance outcomes. International Journal of Production Economics, 146 (2), 501-514.

[3] Escobar, L.F. & Vredenburg, H. (2011). Multinational oil companies and the adoption of sustainable development: A resource-based and institutional theory interpretation of adoption heterogeneity, Journal of Business Ethics, 98, 39-65.

[4] Forbes. (2014). The world’s biggest public companies. Retrieved from:

[5] Alberta Oil Staff. (2014, May 26). The 100 largest oil and gas producers in Canada. Retrieved from

[6] Corporate Knights. (2014). Global 100 index. Retrieved from:

[7] Suncor (2014). Report on sustainability. Retrieved from:

[8] ExxonMobil (2013). Corporate citizenship report. Retrieved from:

[9] Husky. (2013). Community Report. Retrieved from:

[10] Shell. (2013). Sustainability report. Retrieved from:

ExxonMobil logo:

Husky logo:

Shell logo:

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Finding green in black: gas producers in Canada and sustainability