IPIECA Sets Strategy for 2021–24

Brian Sullivan, the executive director of IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for advancing environmental and social performance, lays out the organization’s plans to adapt to a changing world while supporting the energy transition and sustainable development.


How does an oil and gas industry association specializing in environmental and social performance adapt to a world aiming for net-zero emissions with a membership rapidly changing in response? The world of energy and mobility is experiencing unprecedented change. The response to climate change and the need for sustainable development and the economic consequences of a pandemic are leading to fluctuations in energy demand and changes in the energy mix and how oil and gas companies adapt their strategies and portfolios.

As head of IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for advancing environmental and social performance, I have been involved in developing a new strategy to drive the work of the group over the next 4 years.

We have just finalized the strategy, which includes some major steps that will answer the opening question.

I thought I’d share with you what we’ve done, where we are heading, and what I think about it. I hope you will share my enthusiasm for our new strategy and engage with us on the journey ahead.

Member and Stakeholder Input to Our Strategy

IPIECA reviews its strategy every 4 years. During the process, we consult the 70 member companies and associations to obtain feedback on our work and insights on forward priorities. We also engage with our external stakeholders, which include the UN agencies we were formed to work with and international nongovernmental organizations and academia. The feedback and advice we receive from the stakeholders strongly influences our thinking and shaped key elements of our new strategy.

The key strategic issue was to determine IPIECA’s role in the energy transition. Our members and our stakeholders view this as a central issue for themselves and for IPIECA. They recognize that, given our specialization in environmental and social performance, there are opportunities to support the membership and the wider industry as they play their roles in the energy transition and sustainable development.

Oil and gas remain at the core of our members’ portfolios and will remain significant sources of energy and raw material for the decades to come. Significant efforts are ongoing to reduce the environmental and social impacts of production and use of oil and gas and will continue to accelerate in the years ahead. The energy mix will change as alternatives scale up, but, for as long as oil and gas are needed, they will need to be produced responsibly.

Energy Transition at the Heart of Our New Strategy

IPIECA will continue to convene its members to advance environmental and social performance to support the climate, nature, people, and sustainability. While the core activities of IPIECA remain, our new strategy places our work in the dynamic context of the energy transition and sustainable development.

The energy transition is at the heart of the new strategy. It has been added to our new vision, which brings together our drive to advance the environmental and social performance of oil and gas, the energy transition, and sustainable development.

IPIECA’s New Vision

To advance the oil and gas industry’s environmental and social performance and contribution to the energy transition in the context of sustainable development.

A strategy is more than a vision statement. We have built in specific priority actions in relation to the energy transition that drive progress toward our new vision. With IPIECA’s broad scope covering not just climate action but also environmental good practice and social responsibility, we have an opportunity to deploy our ability to convene experts across the spectrum of our work on environmental and social practice. The energy transition should not be delivered at the expense of environmental and social impacts affecting local ecosystems and communities.

We recently published a compendium of guidance, mapping good practice guidance developed by IPIECA to various alternative energy technologies. It was one of our most downloaded publications in 2020 and highlights the need for information in this area. We, therefore, will be prioritizing work on nature-based solutions and the just transition led by our Environment and Social Responsibility groups.

We will also continue the work we started in support of the Paris Agreement on low-emissions pathways through our Climate Change group. This includes looking at issues such as carbon capture, use, and storage; carbon offsets; low-emissions transport; Scope 3 emissions; net-zero emissions; and climate-change adaptation.

What Does This All Mean for IPIECA, and What Do I Think About it?

I am excited and motivated by the path chosen by IPIECA’s membership. It builds on our core role of advancing environmental and social performance and acknowledges the two key issues facing the world: the energy transition and sustainable development.

The new strategy gives IPIECA the mandate to convene its members and provide a platform to develop and share good practice across a spectrum of solutions to address the energy transition. This could support the ambition to support pathways to a low-emissions future without incurring trade-offs in environmental and social practice.

I am also pleased to say that this shows IPIECA as a listening organization, responding to its members and stakeholders. We are working to be a constructive partner in the international dialogue and efforts to address climate change and sustainable development.

Going back to the question at the start of the article, I hope you agree and can see the new strategy as a step up and forward. In the spirit of being a listening organization, I’d welcome feedback on what you’ve read.

Visit IPIECA here.