Armstrong, Kit, Chevron Overseas Petroleum Inc.

Abstract

Sustainable development is being widely promoted as the environmental vision for the world for the 21st century. It presents both significant risks and advantages for companies in the E&P industry.

The push for sustainable development could result in increasing constraints on the industry, possibly threatening the industry's viability. On the positive side, it offers companies the incentive to improve their internal operations and expand their benefits to society. This will result in more efficient, profitable companies and a more successful industry.

Companies can pursue a wide range of strategies to address sustainable development and its potential impacts. Significant efforts will likely be necessary if the industry is to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks posed by the sustainable development movement.

What is "Sustainable Development?"

The most frequently-used definition of "sustainable development" was introduced by the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Bruntland Commission) in its 1987 report, "Our Common Future." As stated by the Bruntland Commission, "sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

That is a very broad and general definition. It can be very difficult to know, and have broad consensus on, what it means in practice, even in very specific contexts in which it may be applied. However, the term embraces the basic principle that environmental protection must constitute an integral part of the development process and vice-versa. One cannot be considered in isolation from the other, and one cannot be achieved without the other. Economic development provides the resources to support environmental protection, but a healthy and sustainable environment is also necessary if economic development is to be maintained.

"Development" in the sustainable development context is also more than economic growth, defined by quantitative measures such as increased Gross National Product (GNP). Viewed more broadly, it is primarily a matter of quality. One can argue whether the relevant standard should be the quality of human life, or of a much broader range of resources of the biosphere whether or not humans depend on them. Whichever standard is used, however, sustainable development is equally relevant to all communities and nations, no matter what their stage of economic development.

Why Should the E&P Industry Care about Sustainable Development?

Sustainable development is of major importance to the E&P industry for a number of very practical reasons.

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