ESG Lessons Learned for the Energy Transition: Capital, People & Safety

Written by:

Josh Levs

The faster we learn lessons, the sooner we succeed. So as the renewable energy industry experiences rapid growth, and oil and gas companies undergo big changes, it’s important to ask: What can we learn from each other?

We assembled experts to provide answers:

  • Hillary Holmes, Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and co-chair of its Capital Markets practice
  • Janeen Judah, Independent Director at Patterson-UTI and Crestwood Midstream Partners LP
  • Maria Gonzalez-Perez, Head of ESG Strategy, Petroleum at BHP
  • Meghan Nutting, Executive Vice President of Government & Regulatory Affairs at Sunnova Energy

Holmes explained that the ALLY ESG Council has a clear goal: “To help the industry address environmental, social and governance issues by bringing together participants from every corner of the energy sector. The ESG Council members are united in their commitment to drive innovative actions that will tackle some of the most pressing issues of our time.”

What renewables can learn from traditional energy companies

Judah pointed to the work oil and gas companies did to become much safer than they used to be. “Have a safety focus as you build and operate your facilities,” she said.

 She also cited project management, supply chain management and data management and key skills. And, she said, there's an important perspective that oil and gas companies have from their many years in business. “Thinking long term and not getting irrationally exuberant about the inflow of capital.”

 Gonzalez-Perez agreed that “discipline around capital allocation framework” is a crucial lesson. She also cited the importance of companies being “partners in the community -- and that's something that oil and gas has been doing for a long time.”

 There was also a modern game-changer for oil and gas, showing that any industry can be reinvented through discovery and technology. “We learned a lot from you all with the shale revolution, and how that changed the world,” Nutting said.

The energy workforce of the future

Both the oil and gas and renewables sectors are in a position to build a diverse future workforce, as studies show diversity and gender balance build stronger businesses.

Nutting said Sunnova has given diversity, equity and inclusion an intense focus. She co-founded a women’s leadership network and the company has a diverse workforce, which has “contributed a lot to our success.”

 Judah said oil and gas can learn from renewables about how to manage people. “To not treat them as fun as fungible” based on cycles, and to speak to their desire for meaning in their work. “I think we can learn from them that whole sense of purpose and doing something big and greater.”

Part of the key lies in narrative and messaging, Gonzalez-Perez added. Oil and gas companies should show people “how we actually have a role to play in the decarbonization and the energy transition.”

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