Throughout the last two decades, for all the good reasons in the world, as citizens, we have been growingly bombarded with corporate narratives calling for sustainability, social responsibility and responsible business. While the sustainability ecosystem and responsible business dynamics were gaining traction and awareness, it was only in the last couple of years that main key stakeholders moved from intentions into tangible commitments with timings and milestones properly laid out.

For obvious reasons, major international oil companies (IOCs) have been on the spotlight for decades on this pivotal agenda. Working for bp for almost 25 years, I had the privilege to see from the inside how bp, as one among peers, made this transformational mindset journey while paving the road for the future.  Let´s not forget that back in 1997 bp´s CEO (Lord Browne) was the one calling for action on global warming while giving a speech in Stanford, which was a clear corner stone, not only on the climate change topic but more broadly on sustainability. Can´t resist recalling one sentence from 1997 Lord Browne´s speech “Real sustainability is about simultaneously being profitable and responding to the reality and the concerns of the world in which you operate. We're not separated from the world. It's our world as well.”

More than 23 years have gone since Browne´s speech in Stanford and in February 2020, bp´s new CEO (Bernard Looney) stated clearly, bp would be carbon neutral by 2050 or sooner, while reimagining energy and reinventing bp as an energy company. This very tangible commitment triggered similar peer statements which are in fact great news for the world. Feeding this positive momentum, bp has now stated that up until 2030, it would move from an international oil company  into an energy integrated company, translated into a very detailed and concrete 10 points plan (with dates) from which the two main take away were related to increasing low carbon investment to $5 billion a year and reducing oil and gas production by over 40% up until 2030. I am just flagging this key concrete data points, in order to show that the call for action and sense of urgency is there. The oil & gas industry (with bp leading the pack) has clearly moved into a different space, no matter how correlated  emissions are linked  or not to climate change, as reducing emissions globally is good for all seasons and there is no point arguing against this one.

As a BP Portugal team member, I can’t resist sharing another bold and unique (first in the world) move we landed locally with global positive knock on effect, on what concerns global emission reductions (Go by bike. If you can't, go with bp). In simple words, this is an initiative through which we grant 100% emissions offsetting for all our retail private customers in Portugal, equivalent to reducing 2 million tons of CO2e/year or similarly taking out of the system the equivalent of 400.000 cars. Sorry to say … but this is not about greenwashing; this is about pragmatism, being realistic and tackling a problem face to face. Why?  Among the three main sources of emissions (mobility, residential, industrial), mobility is the one, where direct emissions reduction is more challenging without compromising actual quality and way of life, which no one wants to give up. That said, making the equivalent, audited and incremental offsetting on other emission sources at the expense of resources generated within mobility, is a clear and balanced pathway up until we reach a sustainable net zero well to wheel set of technologies feeding the mobility area without compromising materially our quality of life.

I am emphasizing the global dimension of this agenda, because that is still the missing link on this whole complex energy system. We do still see key stakeholders competing to minimize costs to comply whilst we should all cooperate on the emissions agenda in a federal, global and pragmatic way, as the bp Portugal example shows very clearly. Our customers are emitting in Portugal and we are offsetting those same emissions globally in a tangible way.

As I have referred to Lord Browne´s Stanford  speech, could not find a better way to honor that 1997-ahead of his time- call for action than sealing this weekly note with his final thoughts from that same speech, which became more real and needed than ever.

“Francis Fukuyama who coined that phrase describes the future in terms of the need for a social order - a network of interdependence which goes beyond the contractual. An order driven by the sense of common human interest. Where that exists, societies thrive. Nowhere is the need for that sort of social order - at the global level - more important than in this area. The achievement of that has to be our common goal”.

Have a great and impactful week!

Pedro Oliveira
CEO bp Portugal

This article refers to edition #48 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter.
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