World Petroleum Execs Ponder Social Responsibility

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, September 3, 2002 (ENS) - Executives of the world's largest oil and gas companies gathered here for the 17th World Petroleum Congress are, for the first time, debating the issue of corporate social responsibility in the oil industry.

"Companies in our business have to consider the interests of all stakeholders. We have to worry about the impact of our activities on all of those around us and, in particular, on the communities in which we operate," said Francisco Gros, president of the Brazilian state oil giant Petrobras and of the World Petroleum Congress National Brazilian Committee.


Brazilian First Lady Ruth Cardoso with Petrobras President Francisco Gros at today's Social Responsibility Luncheon (Photo by Cristina Lacerda courtesy WPC)
Some 60 national committees and 3,000 delegates are meeting in the Riocentro Convention Centre September 2 to 5. Attendees include oil and natural gas industry executives, scientists, engineers, economists, academicians and government officials from more than 90 countries. With more than 800 exhibitors, the Rio Oil & Gas Expo 2002 is showcasing the petroleum industry's most recent innovations.

Responsible for some of the world's worst environmental disasters through oil spills from ships and pipeline leaks, disruptive drilling, and polluting manufacture of petroleum products, the industry is finally taking formal notice of the concept of sustainable development.

“For the first time, we are clearly articulating the words responsibility and society as a whole,” said executive director of the Brazilian organizing comittee for the meeting, Milton Costa Filho.


Eivald Roren, president of the World Petroleum Congress (Photo courtesy WPC)
Geographically distant from the ongoing World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, the petroleum industry is beginning to incorporate the idea of sustainability - leaving the environment at least as healthy for future generations as it was prior to development.

The theme of this year's congress is "Excellence and Responsibility in Serving Society" For the first time, nongovernmental organizations have space to exhibit their products and ideas.

The Social Responsibility Arena, an unprecedented event for the triennial congress, is bringing together some 30 governmental, nongovernmental and business organizations that are currently developing social and environmental action programs and projects, as well as experts and opinion makers.

Open to the general public, the Social Responsibility Arena is meeting from September 2 to 5 in the Riocentro, the same convention facility where the congress is being held.

The seminar themes - issues such as social responsibility, education and social change, sustainable development and the environment - are being developed in the form of conferences, panels, round tables and case presentations conveyed in a talk show format.

Among the 30 organizations participating in the Social Responsibility Arena are the Brazilian Nature Conservation Foundation which supports public and private initiatives for conservation through environmental education, the International Conservation Institute of Brazil, which aims to protect biodiversity and ecosystems in Brazil and in 30 other countries, and the Pro-Natura Institute which encourages social and technological innovations for sustainable development through community and environment projects.


Blue Wave Movement Foundation Gilberto Gil at the Social Responsibility Arena today (Photo by Michel Filho courtesy WPC)
The United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) is another participant, and so is The Blue Wave Movement Foundation, known in Portuguese as OndAzul. Created in 1990 by the composer Gilberto Gil, the foundation manages more than 15 social and environmental projects with the main focus on the defense of water resources and associated ecosystems.

The congress is taking responsibility for the waste it generates. Event organizers estimate that, together, the congress and the Rio Oil & Gas Expo 2002 will generate a total of 16 metric tons of recyclable waste - plastic, aluminium, paper and glass. These materials will be recycled, and the proceeds will be passed on to a residents’ co-operative with 6,000 inhabitants located in the port area of Rio de Janeiro.