What would it be like for a representative of the oil and gas industry to attend a sustainability conference? What would I learn? What kind of politics would I encounter? What kinds of views of the oil & gas industry would I hear? Those questions crossed my mind as I prepared to attend my first GreenBiz conference.
GreenBiz is one of the largest annual conferences on sustainability in the US. Run by the GreenBiz group, it is an opportunity for businesses, NGO’s, policymakers and other stakeholders to come together to discuss trends in the sustainability space, identify potential solutions to pressing challenges, and provide a forum for networking and collaboration.
I work for the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA). We are a trade association that represents the oil and gas industry in the Western United States. Our members are the major integrated and independent oil and gas companies like Exxon, Shell, and Valero. If you participate in the climate change conversation, you might have noticed a few changes in how our industry is engaging in discussing environmental issues. Not only are more of our members talking more proactively about climate change, they are actively evaluating how they can tackle it and increasing their investments in renewable energy sources.
My colleagues at WSPA, under the leadership of our President, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, are beginning to champion a stronger point of view about an inclusive and intentional dialogue about climate change that brings all stakeholders together, including the oil and gas sector. We believe that to reach a meaningful solution, there has to be even more explicit collaboration between traditional power and fuels and the renewable or green power sector. We believe that if we pull together and spend more time problem-solving, we ought to be able to align the interests of our environment, our economy, our sense of social equality, and the future of energy. Although we may be occasionally divided by politics, we all share the same future.
It was that belief that led me to attend GreenBiz this year. I wanted to share our perspective with the environmentally minded people outside the oil and gas industry, and to hear theirs. And the response was overwhelmingly positive. More often than not, the reaction was to welcome us to the discussion and to encourage greater participation.
WSPA members are already collaborating in the sustainable energy space, such as large investments in renewables like solar, wind and geothermal and research into advanced biofuels. I heard several times that research and investment is needed to drive innovative solutions for global issues like climate change, but more than anything else, I learned that we can’t solve these problems independently. We have to work together.
Above all, I was inspired by the incredible focus on collaboration and partnership and the recognition that business is not the enemy to, but rather the agent of change. This was a welcomed outcome, and reinforced WSPA’s belief that we can and should be a more active part of the sustainability discussion.
That’s why today, I’m looking forward to the journey ahead. There’s so much good work to be done. My experience at GreenBiz is an encouraging sign that our voice is indeed welcomed, and that the opportunity for partnership is apparent. It was the best outcome I could have hoped for, and I am looking forward to returning next year.
Written by Jodie Muller, Senior Vice President Government & Association Affairs at the Western States Petroleum Association. In this capacity, Jodie manages external advocacy and outreach programs dealing with government and public affairs for the Association, and serves on the President’s Leadership Team, providing management of and strategic direction to all staff.