EO VP Speaks at Aboriginal Oil and Gas Forum in Canada

Equitable Origin’s VP of Standers & Stakeholder Engagement, Soledad Mills, was a guest speaker at the 13th annual Aboriginal Oil and Gas Forum in Edmonton, Alberta in late November. The conference brought diverse groups of stakeholders together to discuss new opportunities and platforms for indigenous communities to participate in oil and gas development in northern Canada. Aboriginal chiefs, representatives, and associations came together with oil and gas executives, site managers, and developers as well as lawyers, environmental consultants and other experts for an inclusive dialogue on how to ensure indigenous interests served through the new policies and frameworks around extractives in the region.

Soledad presented on Day 1 during a panel on environmental issues and co-management innovations in oil and gas development. As Equitable Origin has witnessed in Latin America, oil and gas development projects are increasingly overlapping with Indigenous Peoples’ territories in increasingly environmentally sensitive areas, creating striking power imbalances between historically marginalized communities and some of the largest, most powerful companies in the world. Soledad stressed the importance of accountability in addressing some of these imbalances. “Accountability is about empowerment,” she said during her presentation, adding that true accountability is when “affected communities have a meaningful voice in ensuring that resources are extracted in ways that do not harm them or future generations and lead to sustainable development.”

Typical ways of ensuring accountability in the extractives industries in the past have included legal mechanisms and name-and-shame campaigns. Legal mechanisms are based on functioning regulatory and judicial systems, or “soft law” grievance processes through international or local organizations. Activist name-and-shame campaigns raise public awareness around a specific issue and pressure industry and government leaders to remedy the situation. However, recent innovations in ensuring and implementing accountability across a variety of industries have been developed, such as standards and certification mechanisms, including Equitable Origin’s EO100 Standard. Certification organizations have arisen in commodities sectors such as Fair Trade (coffee) and the Forest Stewardship Council (timber), but until now, no such standard and certification has existed in the oil and gas industry.

Equitable Origin is the first independently verified standard and certification system for the oil and gas industry. After years of engagement with local stakeholders and indigenous communities in the Amazon region, and engagement with experts in industry, policy, NGOs and academia, Equitable Origin has created a comprehensive standard for the responsible production of oil and gas. Third party auditors verify compliance with the EO100 Standard at the site level, instead of at the corporate level, to ensure that local communities play an integral role in the assurance and development process. Equitable Origin has already certified its first site in Colombia and will soon certify other Latin American sites, with plans to expand certification to other parts of the world where oil and gas development is taking place.

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