EO Explores Innovative Approaches to Environmental and Social Impact Assessments in Mexico

Last year, Equitable Origin (EO) was awarded a grant from the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas (MCFA) for a three-year project to develop and deploy a training curriculum for social and environmental impact assessment based on the EO100™ Standard for Responsible Energy Development in collaboration with academic institutions in Mexico.

Over the last six months, we identified local universities located in areas with oil & gas operations, developed the curriculum, and delivered three trainings in partnership with ANUIES, the National Association of Universities in Mexico.

The goal of the training is to develop the capacity of academic institutions to improve the way environmental and social performance data is gathered, based on the EO100™ Standard and in line with the requirements of the Mexican Energy Ministry, SENER.

The first three trainings were delivered at the Autonomous Universities of Campeche, Ciudad del Carmen and Villahermosa, with a total of approximately 100 participants. The cities of Campeche, Ciudad del Carmen and Villahermosa are historically the three main oil and gas hubs that produce, transport, and store over 1.5 million barrels of oil or oil equivalent per day, which accounts for 78 percent of Mexico’s oil production and 51 percent of its natural gas.[1]

The program is a win-win-win for energy companies, universities, and communities. Companies benefit from the universities’ localized knowledge and lower costs of deploying consultants to conduct impact assessments. Universities benefit by having the opportunity to offer learning and professional development on sustainability issues in the energy sector. Communities benefit from having an independent, local institution serve as a hub for collecting and disseminating information about project risks and impacts, for convening stakeholders, and for potentially handling grievances.

“Engaging academic institutions in the process of evaluating the social and environmental performance of energy projects has the potential to revolutionize the way impact assessments are conducted by tapping into an existing network of local institutions that have a natural connection with and reach into project-affected communities,” said Sebastian Perez, EO’s Director of Operations for Latin America.

Alfredo Martinez de la Torre, General Director of the ANUIES Foundation for Higher Education and Enterprise – FESE – said, “this program benefits local universities by providing the opportunity for professors and students to learn new skills and apply research in one of the most important and fastest-growing economic sectors in Mexico: energy”. This is especially of value in rural areas where professional development opportunities may be limited.

Equitable Origin and FESE presented the main results and future perspectives of this program at ISEAL Alliance’s 2017 Global Sustainability Standards Conference in Zurich last month. At the conference, that brought together over 300 international sustainability leaders, EO and FESE shared the benefits of engaging academic institutions to build bottom-up sustainability knowledge and capacity to measure impacts of energy projects.

Professors, researchers, students, community and indigenous leaders participated in the two-day training sessions that included an analysis of international sustainability standards methodology and frameworks, social impact evaluation tools processes and tools, practical exercises and stakeholder engagement approaches.

EO has two more training sessions planned for next month and looks forward to expanding the program in Mexico next year.

[1] Government of Campeche: http://www.campeche.com.mx/campechenoticias/campeche-continuara-como-el-principal-productor-de-petroleo/286043