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“Establishing Enhanced Credibility and Reputation in the Petroleum Industry Through Social Audits and Independent Verification” FACULTY

OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
ANNETTE HESTER, M.A. (Econ) Director, Latin American Research Centre Telephone: (403) 220-8636 Fax: (403) 282-8606 Email: ahester@ucalgary.ca

The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) seems to be an easy one to understand. Regardless of precise definitions, a recent poll conducted by the Conference Board of Canada concluded that when it comes to investors’ impressions of a company, CSR scores much higher than brand quality and business fundamentals. However, the reality of engaging in, living with, and measuring any CSR program, although essential in these times, is anything but easy. This perception is not being lost on corporations. Increasingly, executives are rethinking how their companies relate to the communities in which they invest. These days, analysts must not only take into consideration the risk parameters of the countries where the investment is going to take place, but also evaluate the home country’s investors’ perceptions of the appropriateness of the investment and how it is conducted - a challenging task. Up to now, the majority of companies operating in the petroleum industry have implemented programs consistent with responsible corporate behaviour. However, some have been much more successful than others in telling the world what they are doing. The irony is that good PR does not necessarily equate with superior CSR, and vice versa. This reality has been especially evident in Calgary where Talisman Energy has been seen as a villain because of its investments in Sudan. In order to bring some transparency to the issue of CSR, a group of companies, academics, and social - environmental activists based in Calgary, under the leadership of the Latin American Research Centre (LARC) at the University of Calgary, is starting a project that will culminate in the design of a system of accreditation for CSR. The idea is to test the existing competing standards by applying them in the investments currently being realized in the resource sector in Latin America as a pioneer case study. The proposed poster will describe CSR accreditation projects currently being developed in the Western Hemisphere according to the criteria selected by participants in the LARC project. It will also describe the project in detail (design of the study, structure, and implementation steps). It is our intention to discuss this project with the sector’s leaders in order to improve the project itself.