EO VP Talks Human Rights in Oil and Gas Sector at Houston Workshop

On February 5th, The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) held a workshop on human rights due diligence in the oil and gas sector. The IHRB is a self-described “think and do tank” that strives to provide expertise in relationship building between international human rights standards and businesses. IHRB prioritizes initiatives “that can have the greatest impact, leverage and catalytic effect focusing on countries in economic and political transition, as well as business sectors that underpin others in relation to the flows of information, finance, workers and/or commodities.”

Given that human rights are one of the six core principles that constitute the foundation for EO’s EO100 certification, it was fitting that EO’s VP of standards and stakeholder engagement, Soledad Mills, represented EO at a workshop. At the workshop, Mills explained the importance of EO’s work to bringing tangible human rights and social responsibility standards to the oil and gas industry:

“Certified [oil and gas] sites are awarded virtual certificates based on their audit score and production volume. These certificates are then sold to users and consumers of oil and gas as a way for them to participate in supporting responsible practices at the site level. You could think of analogies to RECs or GreenPalm certificates. While the oil and gas coming from certified sites is not traceable, certificate buyers can purchase a representative amount based on their usage whereby one certificate is equivalent to one barrel of oil. Certificate buyers could be anyone from consumer goods retailers to universities, utilities, and logistics and transportation companies. Sales of certificates send a market signal that there is demand for more responsible production and allow for a return on investment to operators, which can benefit the sustainability/CSR teams that are often viewed as a cost center. Those funds are then channeled back to benefit communities through social investment or investment in technologies to reduce environmental impacts.”

By drawing attention to the practices of oil and gas operators at development sites and providing a mechanism for ethical consumers to express their preference for responsibly-produced products, EO is driving better human rights practices at development sites. By participating in workshops and collaborating with groups like the IHRB, we hope to raise awareness of and expand support for our work in the human rights arena. The February 5 workshop in Houston was a great opportunity to work toward that goal.

As North America’s oil and gas hub, Houston is a key locale in EO’s mission. Engagement with stakeholders in the U.S. oil and gas industry will be increasingly important as EO expands the EO100 Standard to apply to shale oil and gas (fracking) operations. Southwest Texas is also home to the Eagle Ford shale formation, which is among the most prolific unconventional oil and gas plays in the Western Hemisphere, making the region a focal point for potential future engagement and site certification by EO.

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