Working Paper
Oil and gas companies and the management of social and environmental impacts and issues

The evolution of the industry’s approach

This paper provides an overview of social and environmental management practices in the oil and gas industry. It outlines the evolution of international oil companies’ approaches over the last 20 years, reviews what social and environmental management amongst such companies means in practice, and highlights some of the unresolved issues emerging today.

While most companies now model their approach to social and environmental management on international norms, they face a variety of drivers of their practices. These range from complying with international standards in order to gain access to finance, to complying with new host country legislation and regulation, and gaining and maintaining a good reputation and a ‘social licence to operate’.

This paper argues that the complexity of these drivers problematizes the portrayal of the industry’s social and environmental management as ‘voluntary’ corporate social responsibility, and somewhat renders the latter term misleading.