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What Does Sustainable Development Mean for Oil, Gas, and Mining?

Posted on: April 8, 2020

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity,” (UNDP). The SDGs form part of ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ adopted in September 2015 by the 193 United Nations Member States, consisting of seventeen total goals and representing an ambitious global action plan for social improvement, environmental sustainability, and economic development. 

Achieving the SDG’s by the target year of 2030 will require unprecedented cooperation from not only world governments, but private sector industries, NGOs, and even individual citizens.

For the oil and gas industry, the SDGs offer both significant challenges and opportunities. The oil and gas industry is a substantial contributor to the global economy, and so is undeniably important to not only major exporters such as Saudi Arabia and Canada, but to also to many smaller and developing countries.

The prominence of oil and gas in global and national economies means the industry must be central to sustainable development—without the collaboration of the energy industry, the SDGs are unattainable. Energy drives our world, and oil and gas currently drive our global energy system, and as such, the oil and gas industry and those who regulate it are drivers of economic and social development, putting the industry in a powerful change-making position to achieve the SDGs.

With strategic planning, the oil and gas industry has the opportunity to contribute to each of the seventeen SDGs, either by improving its existing positive impacts or by avoiding negative impacts.


Improving the Sustainable Development Goals

Environmental Issues in Unconventional Oil and Gas Resource Development 

Explore a free chapter from Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources: Exploitation and Development by D. Nathan Meehan, examining  social license and how to truly become part of the communities in which you operate.

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Although the Sustainable Development Goals were introduced in 2015, for the industry, the sustainable development agenda and the issues around it are not a new discussion. The industry has been taking steps that are in line with the SDGs, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions in operations, increasing awareness to help consumers reduce their own emissions, investing in local development, investing in community and worker health and safety, and managing environmental risks. 

However, the oil and gas industry has also played a role in some of the challenges that the SDGs are seeking to improve, such as population displacement, economic and social inequality, environmental degradation and climate change, and even armed conflicts, increased health risk, and violation of certain human rights. 

As such, there are far more opportunities for the oil and gas industry to contribute to sustainability than the steps it has already taken. Understanding the Sustainable Development Goals and how they map to the oil and gas industries existing policies and politics is the first step to action! 


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