Monday, August 04, 2008

Suncor CEO Rick George Joins the Blogosphere.

Last summer I was encouraging Suncor to have their CEO, Rick George, become the new human face of the Alberta’s oil sands industry. The prior face of the oil sands industry was Syncrude’s CEO Eric Newell. He is a person of influence, integrity, wisdom and character who spoke for the oil sands from the mid-90’s until his retirement a few years back.

Ever since Eric retired this enormously important energy undertaking has lost its sense of identity and the growing and accelerating investment with erupting environment concerns has taken a toll on its credibility. It needs a person who is identified with the industry and who is the trusted industry talisman that we can rely on to tell us what is going on in oil sands development, from the industry perspective.

Suncor is a quality company in all aspects and intricacies of the triple bottom line approach to enterprise. It made sense to me then, and it still does today, that Suncor ought to be taking a significant leadership role around the future of the oil sands. Some one needs to be engaging, responding and explaining the challenges and potential for this industry to develop in ways that are profitable and ecologically responsible and socially sustainable.

That meant to me that Rick George needed to take up the torch from Eric Newell and it looks like he has done so. Check out his first Blog post and let me know what you think. It is worth a read and I am told he wrote it himself. I believe that. This is no cynical PR based messaging and positioning piece. It is in the first person – personal from a CEO of a very significant oil sands player - and with something to say.

I hope he writes many more blog posts and his efforts encourage other oil sands CEOs to write blog posts on this site too. Again, be careful and please tell us your thoughts in the first person – personal. Don’t insult your readers and Alberta citizen’s who own the resources you are exploiting, by having your comments ghosted by some anonymous PR specialist. That would do more harm than good.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has set up a website called “Canada’s Oil Sands – A Different Conversation.” Some hard line environmental groups and activists will write this off as green wash. I don’t think so. At least I am willing to give it a chance and the benefit of the doubt for now. I intend to visit it often and comment when the spirit moves me, and evaluate its integrity cautiously.

It is a site that will have challenges and it will have to work hard prove its authenticity. Since it is an industry sponsored site there is a default position in Web culture that it is merely green wash. There are lots of green wash examples and some of the Alberta energy industry players engaged in green wash PR based efforts last year around the royalty review. So a healthy skepticism is not unfounded.

This CAPP effort will have to earn our trust and gain respect over time by showing us its candor and that it will be open, honest, comprehensive and factual on a wide range of key and controversial issues relating to the development of the oil sands. This effort is a big step in the right direction for CAPP and Albert’s oil sands developers. Let’s hope they do it right and for the right reasons.

For the record, I have been a Suncor shareholder for years. I have worked for Suncor but not presently. I also enjoyed working with Suncor people on a few other projects including the 2005 updating of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Business Case.