Q&A with Al Monaco
On October 1, 2012, Al Monaco took over the reins as Enbridge’s President and CEO. In this Q&A he shares his thoughts on CSR and vision for the future.
“CSR is part of every business we’re involved in and underlies every decision we make,” says Al Monaco, President and CEO, Enbridge Inc.
- How do you define corporate social responsibility and how important is CSR for Enbridge?
CSR is about how we conduct our business. CSR is part of every business we’re involved in and underlies every decision we make.
As a company, we have several priorities. We’re establishing Enbridge as an industry leader in safety, operational reliability and environmental performance. We’re executing $18 billion of secured capital investments that are going to drive significant earnings and cash flow growth for the company over the next five years and beyond while also providing value-added solutions for our customers. And we’re developing new business platforms that will extend our growth into the next decade.
We’ll base decisions about how we execute these priorities on our core values—Integrity, Safety and Respect—and ensure that our decisions have the best possible impact on our stakeholders, the environment and the communities in which we live and work.
To me, that’s CSR. Social responsibility is nothing less than the bedrock on which we’re building Enbridge’s long-term sustainability.
- Why did CSR become so important for Enbridge?
I credit my predecessor Pat Daniel and his unwavering commitment to social responsibility. Pat set the bar very high for us regarding what we need to do to be a good corporate citizen. I also credit every single Enbridge employee for embracing CSR, and for living our company’s core values. They are what Enbridge stands for, and our stakeholders and the public should expect nothing less from us.
In addition to the above, CSR is important for Enbridge because it embodies what stakeholders expect and what we need to do to succeed in our business today.
- Are there financial benefits to being a responsible company?
Yes, and I’ll give you several examples.
Shareholders are looking for a sustainable return on their investment, and being a responsible company contributes to Enbridge’s strength. An increasing number of institutional equity investors are looking to invest in socially responsible companies, and this makes Enbridge an attractive investment prospect for them.
Another consideration is social license. In order to grow our business and thrive, we need to maintain our social license to operate. In other words, we need to constantly earn the public’s trust and confidence that we can operate safely and bring benefits to the communities in which we operate. And we achieve that by always acting responsibly and ensuring Enbridge is an industry leader in safety, operational reliability and environmental performance.
Another example is our investment in renewable energy and alternative technologies. While traditional energy sources will be with us for a long time, we need to look to the future and develop all sources of energy to meet growing demand. To date, Enbridge has invested almost $3 billion in renewables, primarily in wind and solar energy, which generate nearly 1,000 megawatts of emissions‐free power. At the same time, our renewables projects generate stable and reliable cash flows, just like our liquids and gas pipelines, gas processing and gas distribution businesses. So, yes, there are environmental benefits to investing in renewable projects but our investments also make good business sense.
- What, for you, are Enbridge’s most important CSR initiatives?
We have CSR initiatives at every level of the company, so it’s hard to know where to begin.
I would say the core CSR action that we’re most focussed on—and this will always be the case—is operational excellence, which for us means constantly reinforcing the safety and integrity of our systems and being best-in-class in the industry in key areas such as pipeline and facility integrity, third-party damage avoidance, leak detection, incident response, occupational safety and public safety and environmental protection. Our objective is straightforward: to achieve top-quartile if not best-in-class performance across all critical safety and integrity dimensions.
I would also point to our ground-breaking Neutral Footprint initiative, through which we’re stabilizing Enbridge’s environmental footprint at January 2009 levels by planting trees, conserving natural habitat and generating renewable power to counter our most significant impacts.
We’re encouraging our gas distribution customers to use energy wisely through multiple programs, which, since 1995, have resulted in net energy savings to customers of over $2 billion and helped them avoid over 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
And then there are our company-wide community investment initiatives such as Safe Community, School Plus and Volunteers in Partnership—all these are also having a significant, positive impact on the communities in which we operate.
These are just some of the initiatives, but with CSR infusing everything we do as a company, really all of our actions are important.
- As a result of Enbridge’s 2010 oil spill in Marshall, Michigan, and the subsequent report that the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board issued about it in July 2012, Enbridge’s spills performance and pipeline integrity are under a lot of scrutiny—particularly since the company would like to build new projects such as the Northern Gateway Pipeline from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia. What do you say to people who are questioning Enbridge’s ability to build and operate safe pipelines?
I tell them that, while our spill in Marshall was, indeed, humbling for Enbridge, we have used that experience to further strengthen our company.
With a few exceptions in our 60-plus years in the liquids pipelines business—the Marshall spill being one of them—we have a good track record of being a safe and highly competent pipeline operator. If you look at Enbridge’s safety performance over the past decade, our spill frequency record in the U.S. is one quarter that of our industry peers, and our volume-spilled history is about half of the industry, excluding Marshall. In Canada, our spill frequency record is about seven per cent of our industry peers, and our volume-spilled history is about 14 per cent better than our peers.
But being good is not good enough for us. We’re striving for zero incidents. We’re strengthening every aspect of our operations to drive our incident frequency and spill volume down, not just to our historical “better than industry” level, but as close to zero as we can get.
To that end, we’ve made many improvements over the last several years and, already, they’re having a positive impact.
- How can we best respond to those who oppose energy projects?
It does seem these days that any type of energy project—nuclear, coal, oil, natural gas, and even wind and solar—attracts opposition.
It used to be that nobody cared that much about pipeline companies, but because we are critical enablers to oil and gas development, our sector is a point of attack.
Some of these opponents promote the notion that we can get off traditional forms of energy tomorrow.
But the reality is, the world will need to grow traditional forms of energy to meet global demand; to say nothing of the fact that energy investment drives economic growth and supports our social infrastructure—whether it’s hospitals, schools or roads. I think most people get that.
As an industry we need to recognize that there’s another reality, which is that the public wants resource development to happen in a sustainable way, with minimal adverse impacts, and that economic benefits alone are not enough to support energy development.
Oil sands producers are making progress in addressing environmental concerns in the areas of emissions, reclamation, water use and sharing technology. Gas producers are minimizing their footprint. Our Cabin Gas Plant in British Columbia is a case in point, where producers agreed that a central facility would minimize the environmental impact.
So, as Enbridge becomes increasingly engaged in large-scale projects, it’s more important than ever that we engage with communities early and often, be responsive to people’s concerns about impacts, be flexible with design, explain not just the economic benefits that flow to communities but also the steps we’re taking to ensure safety and reliability, and reinforce our broader track record as a leader in environmental sustainability and CSR.
This is the approach Enbridge has always taken and it’s the approach we’ll always take. It’s the way we do business.
- What do you think?
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