Putting a price on carbon will be crucial for Statoil as it prepares to remain competitive in the new economy, says Charlotte Wolff, the company’s vice president for sustainability. Interview by Tom Idle.
What is the number one priority for Statoil right now?
Climate change. As the world’s population grows, we need to provide more energy to more people. Climate science makes it very clear that we need to transition towards a low carbon future – and we’re committed to evolving our business to respond.
How will you do that?
Well, it is a combination of proactive climate advocacy and engagement as well as real industrial achievement to reduce carbon emissions and to increase our renewables portfolio.
We know that putting a price on carbon works. Our Norwegian operations have been subject to a carbon price since 1991, which has led to the company having only half the carbon intensity compared to the industry average.
We were publicly advocating for a legally binding and effective agreement in Paris at COP21 to limit global warming below 2C.
We’re committed to reducing our own emissions too, promoting the use of natural gas as a suitable source of power for the transition towards lower carbon, fully aligned with the recommendations of the IPCC 5th assessment report. For our Norwegian operations, we will meet our 2020 carbon emissions reduction goal of 800,000 tonnes CO2 almost four years early – and we are now committed to increasing our target by 50% to 1.2 million tonnes CO2.
How has your stakeholder base – particularly investors – changed in terms of their demand for more disclosure and transparency on sustainability issues in recent years?
Investors want to have the confidence that management can manage risks effectively, while undertaking profitable business. Every year we strengthen our sustainability reporting as well as our disclosures in other media.
What are the implications of new, stronger human rights legislation on your business operations?
We have worked proactively on human rights issues for years – and we recently brought our commitment to the fore through a standalone human rights policy. We have an internal human rights steering committee and engage our board of directors regularly on the topic. For new legislation, such as the UK Modern Slavery Act, we inform our practises with the support of internal and external resources and stakeholder engagement.
We are currently carrying out human rights assessments of a select group of suppliers. And these will be followed up through improvement plans and the results are also shared with our corporate executive committee.
Is there still a gap between the concept of enabling communities to have free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of new developments and projects – and ways to successfully implement that and ensure people’s voices are properly heard?
In preparing our human rights policy, we engaged dozens of external stakeholder in our drafting – and FPIC was raised a few times as an important issue.
Managing local expectations and conducting and facilitating meaningful engagement is important – and something we are committed to in all of our projects and operations. Ensuring that these requirements are well understood, hardwired into our management systems, and implemented skilfully is something we invest in.
What’s likely to keep you most busy in 2016?
We will continue to work on climate-related issues and linking this work with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as evolving our business in line with our company vision of shaping the future of energy by transforming the oil and gas industry, and providing energy for a low carbon future, while remaining competitive at all times.
Charlotte Wolff is Statoil’s vice president for sustainability. She will be speaking at Innovation Forum’s sustainable extractives forum in London on 27th-28th April 2016.