Sustainability: What’s that supposed to mean?

The Importance of Water

Humankind is entirely dependent on water, including for energy. “Water and energy are strongly interlinked: water is required to produce, transport and use all forms of energy to some degree” (UNESCO, 2014, p.12).

Created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Water Development Report (WWDR) ranked Canada among the richest countries in the world for water (UNESCO, 2014). However, this allows for an energy policy that further permits the production of Canadian oil-sands in Alberta, resulting in large amounts of carbon emissions and water use, a policy of which is unsustainable. See the video below for a short explanation of the Alberta oil sands production process.


According to Environment Canada (2014), sustainability is “about improving the standard of living by protecting human health, conserving the environment, using resources efficiently…It requires the integration of environmental, economic and social priorities into policies and programs and requires action at all levels – citizens, industry, and governments.” It follows that “using resources efficiently” and “action” from citizens are important parts of energy policy development. If this is what is meant by sustainability, though, I have problems understanding the relevance of its emphasis throughout Government documents.

The democratic process ceases to exist at the policy level, for example, in Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) sees SEA as a method to evaluate Canadian Energy Policies (CEAA, 2014). According to the CEAA (2014), there are no SEAs that exist at this time nor have there ever been any, regarding Canada’s energy policy. This is not sustainable, since incorporating citizen action at the policy level, according to Environment Canada’s own definition of sustainable, is virtually non-existent.

Oil-sands development has some of the most adverse effects. According to David Harvey of the University of Toronto: “Tar sands oil entails 5-60% more greenhouse gas emissions on a life-cycle basis than conventional oil” (ForestEthics, 2013, p.6).

According to the Canadian Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP), in 2012, the Alberta oil-sands operations alone produced 50,285,958.95 tons/CO2eq. Comparatively, the entire province of Quebec produced 17,765,573 tons/CO2eq for the same year. Furthermore, in Canada, it takes about 7-10 M3 of water to produce 1 M3 of Bitumen, the raw oil-sand from Alberta that still requires further processing into crude oil, which itself requires more energy (NRCAN, 2014). This is not sustainable, since it takes about 7-10 times the amount of water to produce 1 unit (barrel, gallon, litre, etc.) of oil. This is not using resources efficiently.

Even a Life-Cycle Assessment shows treatment disparity between conventional energy (fossil fuels), nuclear and renewables (Ecolateral, 2014).

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 3.44.44 PM

Sustainability is more like “sustainability”. It is clear that Canadian energy policies do not live up to Canada’s own definition of sustainability, not only by erosion of the democratic process but also by way of one of the most inefficient uses of one of the most precious resources in the world: water, on which all of humankind depends. This is compounded by the exponentially increasing amount of carbon entering the atmosphere every day, the air you and I breath. In any sense of the definition, how does this sound sustainable and in light of these facts, how can we truly believe that our Government is handling our resources in the most sustainable fashion?

For more information on the current politics of fossil-fuel development, please visit:!ep2-carbon/clzn


Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. 2014. The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. Accessed on January 8th, 2014. Available from:

Environment Canada, 2014. Facility GHG emissions by province/territory.

Accessed on January 7th, 2014. Available from:

Environment Canada, 2014. Sustainable Development. Accessed on January 7th, 2014. Available from:

ForestEthics Advocacy, 2013. Who writes the rules? A Report on Oil Industry Influence, Government Laws, and the corrosion of Public Process.

Natural Resources Canada, 2014. Accessed on January 7th, 2014. Available from:

Oil Sands Information Portal, 2014. Accessed on January 7th, 2014. Available from:

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 2014. The United Nations World Water Development Report: Water and Energy. (1).


What is TransCanada’s public participation strategy in Quebec?

[…] to conflate the opening of a browser window with helping to put up yard signs under the single rubric “participation” […] is not only to denigrate actual participation but to promote notions of participation that could easily undermine the very idea. (Unless, the cynic in me wonders, that’s the intention.)” D. Wood [1]

Public participation is required as part of any EIA performed in Canada. However the extent to which it is practiced in a meaningful manner is another story; as described by Arnstein, it can range from manipulation to citizen control. For effective participation, Arnstein argues that we should completely avoid tokenism (and the No power, of course).[2]” alt=”Arnstein Ladder of public participation” />

One of the most important pipeline projects -the Energy East Pipeline project by TransCanada – is currently undergoing an EIA process. Because the project would cross many provincial borders, it has triggered a Federal EIA, but provinces can require the company to comply with their own sets of requirements before allowing the project to go ahead on their lands. The consultation process has already started in Ontario [3], but it hasn’t yet started in Quebec. TransCanada has not provided the necessary information to the BAPE (Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement) andas of February 5, 2015 the BAPE has not been mandated by the Quebec government to perform public consultations [4].

An article by Alexandre Shields (Le Devoir, January 9, 2015) outlined the non-existence of a French version of the documents submitted to the National Energy Board (NEB) relative to the Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed pipeline. The author reported that the NEB (the responsible authority for the project) would not require the proponent to translate the document and would not translate it itself either [5]. This situation is appalling considering the fact that a portion of the pipeline would go through the province of Quebec and that only 36.1% of Quebec’s population (whose first language is French) is bilingual [6]. How can the public properly participate in such a situation? The NEB argues that the information provided on TransCanada’s website is sufficient for the francophones to understand the extent of the project, but as Alexander Shields mentions, the information on the proponent’s website is not verified by the NEB and therefore its exactness cannot be guaranteed [5]. In addition, as is argued by Wood (2010), a critical geographer, displaying information on the web is only suitable for passive public and should never be labeled public participation [7].

Source: EcoWatch - Southern portion of Keystone XL pipeline

The question I ask then is: Considering the heated debate over oil production in Quebec, does TransCanada want to shut down Quebecer’s voices?

The Energy East public relations’ strategy to convince Quebecers to adopt the pipeline despite strong initial opposition was initially based on promotion of the merits of the pipeline. The public relations company, Edelman, stated in their Strategic Plan for Quebec that:

“At first, Québécois are unfamiliar with oil as an energy resource. Myth and misgivings are even more present when it comes to oil from Alberta’s oils sands, which are also closely associated with Stephen Harper’s government and policies. Education on the subject is thus highly required.” [8](p.17)

As a result, it would seem to be in the company’s interest to display information as transparently as possible and to disseminate information as widely as possible so that the public is aware of their efforts to understand the impact of the pipeline on the environment, as well as their effort to mitigate the impacts where possible. It looks like instead, TransCanada intends to simply display information, and not necessarily in a transparent way. Not more. This can hardly be called public participation.


[1] Wood, D. (2010). Rethinking the Power of Maps. The Guilford Press, New York, London: 161.

[2] Noble, B.F. (2010). Chapter 11: Public Participation in EIA, in Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment – A Guide to Principles and Practice, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, Canada: 184.

[3] Ontario Energy Board, Energy East Consultation and Review.

[4] Shields, Alexandre (January 20, 2015). Retard majeur au Québec, Le Devoir.

[5] Shields, Alexandre (January 9, 2015). Pas de documents en français pour Énergie Est, Le Devoir.

[6] Secrétariat à la Politique Linguistique, Québec. Tableau: Population bilingue (français et anglais), Québec. La dynamique des langues en quelques chiffres. Gouvernement du Québec, 2009. Retrieved at:

[7] Wood, D. (2010). Rethinking the Power of Maps. The Guilford Press, New York, London: 156-171.

[8] Edelman. (May 20, 2014). Strategic Plan: Quebec – Energy East Pipeline, Calgary, p.17. Retrieved on January 15, 2015 from

The weakening of Canada’s environmental protection laws – an obsolete NAFTA to blame?

On 27 January 2015, the Council for the Commission of Environmental Cooperation (CEC), NAFTA’s environmental arm, unanimously elected to prevent an investigation meant to assess Canada’s poor environmental management record as it pertains to the continuous leaking of tailings ponds into the Athabasca River1. Two non-governmental organizations and three private citizens filed the complaint with the CEC in September 2010, alluding to the federal government’s failure at enforcing the Federal Fisheries Act1.

Dale Marshall, National Energy Program Manager with Environmental Defence, explains2:

“The blow is to the people who are being affected by toxic pollution and whose government just turned their back on” Dale Marshall, Environmental Defence2

The CEC’s recent decision to thwart public scrutiny of an ecologically devastating issue of long date is the third occurrence of its kind within the last year3. The irresponsibility, lack of transparency, and political biases introduced by the inability of NAFTA’s signatories to see this investigation through hints not only at the federal government’s conflict of interests with the tar sands industry, but also at NAFTA’s growing ineptitude and obsolescence with respect to the enforcement of existing environmental laws in Canada.

Established in the wake of NAFTA’s inception in 1994, the CEC is a tripartite inter-jurisdictional review body mandated to support the protection, conservation, and enhancement of environmental concerns4,5. It does so through the production of citizen- and NGO-driven inquiries, called factual records, into Canadian, Mexican or American governmental behaviours deemed neglectful of their environmental policies5. The CEC was created as a safeguard to ensure the free trade agreement did not result in the creation of pollution havens, a race-to-the-bottom for environmental standards, and an increase in environmental impacts6.

As multiple examples suggest, however, NAFTA is riddled with inherent weaknesses which, taken together, have strongly contributed to the regressive environmental platform that now typifies the federal Canadian context.

Alberta’s booming oil and gas industry is the poster child of post-NAFTA economic growth in Canada, with industry pressures routinely exerting their stronghold over Canadian federal policy direction. The budget cuts of 2009, 2010, and 2012, introduced under alluring aliases like Jobs and Growth, have repeatedly gutted key environmental acts, introducing changes that proposed the elimination of the “legal protection of navigation on 99 per cent of Canada’s lakes and rivers”7, that exempt “certain pipeline projects from the requirement to respect reasonable measures to protect critical habitat of species protected under SARA [Species At Risk Act]”6, that have weakened the CEAA, and that eased tolerable levels of harm incurred to fish or fish habitat as per the Federal Fisheries Act6. Canada formally abandoned its Kyoto obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in 20116, and repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act in 20127. Environment Canada’s overall funds were cut by nearly 30 per cent by the 2014 budget8.

The CEC’s decision thus comes with much frustration but as no surprise. In its twenty years of generating factual records, the CEC has put forth 29 votes on petitions9. Only five of those votes resulted in the outright rejection of an investigation – three of which have befallen Canadian practices in the last 12 months10. In 2014, motions registered with the CEC to report on the lack of protection of polar bears under the Species at Risk Act and on the violation of the Federal Fisheries Act through harmful fish farming practices off the coast of British Columbia were successfully vetoed with the same nonchalance seen with the Alberta tailings case10. Perhaps the time has come to recognize the obsolescence of our trade agreements, their affiliate organizations, and the policy space they occupy.



1 Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Alberta Tailings Ponds. Registry of Submissions. Update 27 January 2015. Available from Accessed 8 February 2015

2 Global News. NAFTA Watchdog Won’t Investigate Oilsands. Released on 29 January 2015. Available from Accessed on 8 February 2015.

3 Schindler, D.W. (2014). Unravelling the complexity of pollution by the oil sands industry. Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Science, 111(9), 3209-3210.

4 Garver, G. & Podhora, A. (2008). Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment as Part of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 26(4), 253-263.

5 Commission for Environmental Cooperation. (2014). About the CEC. Available from Accessed on 8 February 2015.

6 Garver, G. (n.d.). Forgotten Promises: Neglected Environmental Provisions of the NAFTA and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. Available from Accessed 8 February 2015.

7 Johnston, A. Canada Gutting its International Reputation Along with its Environmental Laws. West Coast Environmental Law. Posted on 14 November 2013. Available from Accessed 8 February 2015.

8 Nikiforuk, N. Facing Millions in Cuts, Environment Canada Prepares to Get Lean. The Tyee. Posted on 15 March 2014. Available from Accessed on 8 February 2015.

9 Skene, J. (2015). Failure to Investigate Tailings Ponds Sends the Wrong Signals on NAFTA Environmental Oversight. Tar Sands Solution Network. Available from Accessed 8 February 2015.

10 McDiarmid, M. NAFTA scrutiny of oilsands tailings ponds opposed by Canada. CBC News, Politics. Posted on 12 January 2015. Available from Accessed on 8 February 2015.

11 Libby, H. & Linnitt, C. (2013). Fort McMurray, Home to 176 Square km of Tar Sands Tailings Ponds, Overwhelmed by Floods. Desmog Canada. Available here Accessed 9 February 2015.

Striving for a Green Economy: novel concept or novelty?

(Photo by Kalikasan Party)

According to the European Environmental Agency, “the green economy” is a concept that consists of balancing economic growth and environmental protection [1]. The idea is to incorporate the environment into economic development. Will the idea of the green economy be a solution to environmental sustainability? It is a novel concept but could it become a simple novelty instead?

The past year has had a lot of focus on sustainable activity. The United Nations 2014 Climate Summit took place to lead up to the 2015 Summit in which the UN will discuss a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol [2]. Al Gore streamed an event called 24 Hours of Reality that listed a myriad of solutions to lower carbon emissions [3]. Even Pope Francis has begun emphasizing the need to turn our attention towards climate change [4].

Currently, President Obama has proposed designating 4.8 million hectares of Alaskan territory as wilderness areas [5]. Opposition to this proposal has to do with a large area of Alaska being put off limits for oil exploration. In addition, in the United Kingdom, MPs are in debate about a moratorium on fracking in order to meet emission reduction goals [6].

The question is, with our growth towards “the green economy”, how are environmental assessments responding to projects? As easy as it is to fall on oil and coal as our main sources of energy, there are numerous alternative and sustainable sources of energy. Does this trend towards green energy give more easily permission to green projects?

There are cases where a good idea goes wrong. An example is Germany’s transition to renewable energy and the implementation of wind farms in the mid-2000s. Striving for a cleaner source of energy had switched Germany from an energy exporter to importer due to the power strain on the power grid [7]. Due to a quick transition and poorly assessed plans on the output of energy, the power demand, and the unpredictability of wind caused the problem [7]. It continues with the need to expand and deliver energy impeded by activists who preventing approval of construction [7]. A similar problem occurred with a solar plant:

“[…] I will never forget those seemingly endless days of summer spent inside while it rained incessantly. Bavaria is like Seattle in the United States or Sichuan province in China. You don’t want to put a solar plant in Bavaria, but that is exactly where the Germans put it. The plant, with a peak output of 10 megawatts, went into operation in June 2005.

It happened for the best reason there is in politics: money. Welcome to the world of new renewable energies, where the subsidies rule—and consumers pay.”

– Vaclav Smil, writer for IEEE commenting on a proposed plan for a solar plant [8].

What we see here is not the fault of the type of resource, but the system and approval of a plan not well assessed. The poor planning leads to ineffective energy production which leads to an increase price in energy and loss in potential. We get caught up with the trend of green projects that we neglect some of the problems. In 2011, a project in Saskatchewan involving a wind turbine encountered skepticism such as:

 “I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle because as soon as you announce a project is green, everybody stands and salutes the flag.”

– Councilor Pat Lorje  [9]

It is a fair point. People have the right to question a new project. In this case, they wanted to see the documents of the project assessment. Is it not their prerogative? If we want to advance towards a green economy, these projects need to be approved after proper assessment and planning. EA reports should not become more lenient to projects that are labeled “green”. I do not want to sound punitive but I would prefer to see few successful projects than many failed projects. Green is not the new black, it should be a way of living; let us judge it so.

[1] European Environment Agency, 2011. Europe’s environment — An Assessment of Assessments. From:

[2] Brown P. 2014. New York summit is last chance to get consensus on climate before 2015 talks. The Guardian.

[3] The Climate Reality Project, 2014. 24 Hours of Reality: 24 Reasons for Hope.

[4] The Associated Press, 2015.  Pope Francis’ stand on climate change deepens distrust among US conservatives. NOLA.

[5] BBC News, 2015. Obama push to expand Alaskan refuge. BBC News: Science & Environment.

[6] Briggs H., 2015. MPs: Ban fracking to meet carbon targets. BBC News: Science & Environment.

[7] Watts A, 2012. Germany in skeptical turmoil on both Climate and Solar/Windfarms.

[8] Smil V., 2012. A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy. IEEE Spectrum.

[9] Eyre B., 2011. Green skeptics simply tilting at windmills. The Starphoenix.

Sacrificing the Environment: Effects of the Canadian Environment Assessment Act 2012 on The Enbridge Pipeline 9B Reversal

By Wills Tobin,

Formerly, Enbridge pipeline 9B sent oil from Montreal, Quebec to Sarnia, Ontario. An approval on March 6, 2014 has allowed Enbridge Pipelines to reverse oil direction and capacity towards Montreal, QC. The National Energy Board’s approval is a fundamental example of the extent to which EIA processes in Canada have eroded because of the Bill C-38 adoption in June 2012. More insight on this:

In bill C-38, The Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA 2012) changed drastically. The Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC) facilitated changes in the act through lobbying representatives and members of Government (Forest Ethics, 2013). The EPIC mandate is to “…provide the foundations…for energy and environmental policy”(Forest Ethics, 2013, p. 1). As the conservative Government argued that the CEAA 2012 amendment was simply to streamline and reduce duplication, the effects of legislation have been negatively influential on the line 9B project (EPIC, 2012).

Scoping Line 9B

Due to the CEAA 2012, in the Line 9B reversal, The NEB (National Energy Board) stated that it would not consider environmental or socio-economic effects not directly associated with the reversal of the pipeline (Forest Ethics, 2013; David Suzuki Foundation, 2012; Gage, 2012). This has had a negative effect on the scope of the project. Scoping is critical because its purpose is to identify scientific and public core values so indirect and cumulative impacts are not over-looked, especially when it comes to major oil and gas infrastructure, which should always require comprehensive studies (Noble, 2010).

Monitoring Line 9B

According to Forest Ethics (2013), “once a decision is made for a given project, the NEB will not revoke permits, even if subsequent analyses show adverse environmental effects (p. 7).” The NEB also stated that monitoring should only have to be done at the beginning of the EIA process and not require continued follow-ups (NEB, 2013). The pipeline is 38 years old and it is worrisome that it may rupture if its carrying capacity is increased. There is a fear about pre- and post-, consistent monitoring, as knowledge of bitumen effects on the environment is limited and therefore less capable of being mitigated (CTV News, 2014). See video for more details:

Public Participation Line 9B

Most importantly, public participation now only includes people “directly effected”. (David Suzuki Foundation 2012; Gage 2012; Forest Ethics, 2013) As a result, compared to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project (11,111 public participants), Enbridge line 9B only had 172 participants (Forest Ethics, 2013). This legislation has meant the loss of democracy in Canadian EIA. This is most important because participant input as to what is important in EIA has formerly always been taken into consideration. Keep in mind that what constitutes an impact or effect is frequently defined by social value. This diminution of public participation also defeats the purpose of important cornerstones in the development of EIA in Canada, like the signing of the Rio Declaration in 1992, the UN global environmental assessment agreement (UNEP, 1992). The effects of the CEAA 2012 have had repercussions that need to be noticed and hopefully acted upon very soon.


Canadian Environmental Law Association. (2014). Retrieved from:’s-greenhouse-gas-reduction-program-–-carbon-tax.

CBC News. (2014). Enbridge Line 9 pipeline reversal approved by energy board. Retrieved from:

CTV News. (2014). Leonardo DiCaprio visits Alberta oilsands to research documentary. Retrieved from://

David Suzuki Foundation. (2012). Bill C-38: What you need to know. Retrieved from:

Energy Policy Institute of Canada. (2012). A Canadian Energy Strategy Framework: A guide to building Canada’s future as a global energy leader. Retrieved from:

Environment Canada. (2014). Retrieved from:

ForestEthics Advocacy. (2013). Who writes the rules? A Report on Oil Industry Influence, Government Laws, and the corrosion of Public Process.

Gage, A. (2012). Who is silenced under Canada’s new environmental assessment law? West Coast Environmental Law. Retrieved from:’s-new-environmental-assessment-act

Green World Rising. (2014). Retrieved from:!ep2-carbon/clzn

Line 9: It’s coming for you. Retrieved from:

National Energy Board. (2013). Hearing Order OH-002-2013. 2000/90464/90552/92263/790736/890819/918701/918444/A3%2D1_%2D_Hearing_Order_OH%2D002%2D2013_%2D_A3F4W7.pdf?


Natural Resources Canada. (2014). Retrieved from:

Oil Sands Information Portal, (2014). Retrieved from:

Opposing Enbridge’s Line 9. (2014). Retrieved from:

Stewart, K. (2014). Approval of Enbridge Line 9 good for oil companies, not communities: Greenpeace. Toronto. Retrieved from:

UNEP. (1992). Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Retrieved From:

Finding green in black: gas producers in Canada and sustainability

Finding Green in Black: Gas Producers in Canada and Sustainability

all logos

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:

Suncor logo:×300.png


ISO 14000: Are environmental standards relevant to the oil and gas industry?

By David Vilder.

In a rapidly evolving political landscape of interdependence and lowering of traditional frontiers, new tools for environmental governance keep emerging with both successes and failures. Governments struggle to enact new regulations. They often face strong opposition from the business sector, or the political climate simply isn’t favorable [1]. Government regulation is also very costly, both in terms of political capital and finances. Since the 1980s, New Environmental Policy Instruments (NEPI) have emerged as a results of growing dissatisfaction toward traditional command and control policies [2].

Gulf of Mexico (May 6, 2010) -- Dark clouds of smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Coast Guard working in partnership with BP PLC, local residents, and other federal agencies conducted the "in situ burn" to aid in preventing the spread of oil following the April 20 explosion on Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Deepwater Horizon. (Source: WikiCommons/U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg/Released)

Gulf of Mexico (May 6, 2010) — Dark clouds of smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Coast Guard working in partnership with BP PLC, local residents, and other federal agencies conducted the “in situ burn” to aid in preventing the spread of oil following the April 20 explosion on Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Deepwater Horizon. (Source: WikiCommons/U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg/Released)

Eco-labels, in particular, have proliferated in the past 20 years. One of the most prominent is the ISO 14 000 family of environmental standards. In brief, ISO 14000 requires a company to assess all aspects of their production and their respective environmental impacts. It also requires an Environmental Management System (EMS), which must include an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP) [3]. Thousands of companies have been certified since the launch of the new standard in 1996, yet one sector remained slow to catch on: the oil and gas industry.

The trend is changing. All major oil and gas companies are moving toward an ISO 14000 certification or have already implemented it (Shell and Total amongst others) [4].   The issue – or the benefits – around eco-labels and such type of NEPI that are market-based is that they are voluntary standards motivated by the market (hence the name market-based!). In other words, there must be a perceived economic advantage for a company to move forward with the often costly certification. Economic advantage, in turn, is the results of both consumer awareness and uptake [2]. When these two elements are combined, an eco-label scheme can become quite successful at protecting the environment while benefiting the company (like the Forest Stewardship Council -FSC- for pulp and paper industry or ISO 14000 in some sectors) [2].

In the oil and gas sector, however, the potential benefits are often hard to grasp. Nobody thinks twice about which gas they put in their cars (except from reward schemes such as Air Miles). The logic behind ‘green’ gas is not the same as for organic tomatoes, yet there is one element of ISO 14000 that can be very beneficial for a company like Enbridge: an EPRP. EPRP can influence directly a company’s long-term operational risk, thereby reassuring investors and potential stakeholders [5]. Other players in the industry have made the move.

Cleaning work after the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez (source: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council)

How many more spills will be required before oil companies implement comprehensive and transparent EPRPs. On image: Cleaning work after the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez (source: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council)


[1] GABRIEL, T., WINES, M., & DAVENPORT, C. (2014, 01 18). Chemical Spill Muddies Picture in a State Waryof Regulations. Retrieved 02 23, 2014, from The New York Times:

[2] Kalfagianni, A., & Pattberg, P. (2013). Fishing in muddy waters: Exploring the conditions for effective governance of fisheries and aquaculture. Marine Policy, 38(1), 124–132.

[3] Willaert, T. (2014, 03 02). Major revision of ISO 14001 coming up: what is new in ISO 14001:2015? Retrieved 03 02, 2014, from DQS-UL CFS GmbH:

[4] Spence, D. B. (2011). Corporate Social Responsibility in the Oil and Gas Industry: The Importance of Reputational Risk. Chicago-Kent Law Review, 86(1), 59-85.

[5] The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. (2013). Final Oral Arguments Presented to the National Energy Board of Canada. Chicago, IL: The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.