Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Have You Met OSQAR? You Should!

OSQAR is "Oil Sands Questions and Responses" and an effort of Suncor to help answer the "who can you trust" question on the oil sands.  I recently did another blog post on this question.

Here is a link to the latest offering of OSQAR on air quality in the oil sands producing region. It is worth a read and even worth you subscribing to for future editions if you take your rights and responsibilities as a citizen owner of the oil sands.  Full disclosure, I am a Suncor shareholder and have done work for them on occasion but not for some time.

Notice a couple of thing in this effort by OSQAR.  They quote evidence based scientific research to substantiate the claims.  They identify the individual who did the study and provide a link to learn more about the research.  They also provide a link to the original material they are challenging. This time from Environmental Defence.  Lots of context, content and authoritative sources you can read and judge for yourself.

This is clearly a more trustworthy approach than the glossy paid advertising approaches being used in too many instances by government and industry.  But I have to say, it is not quite there yet.  What they don't do is provide for a capacity for readers to have a conversation on the issue so people can share their thoughts, information, reaction and insights to the material and the issues.   This is still a one-way - let me tell you what you need to know approach to reach an audience.  It will inform and raise awareness but it will not create a trusting relationship with a recipient.  Nor will it likely form a community of conversation amongst Albertans on the issues being addressed so the sharing of ideas helps everyone learn more from each other as well as from authorities and experts.  It is not participatory.

The overarching question in all of this for Albertans still is who can we trust.   Research quoted in Reader's Digest in 2009 shows that some of the least trusted people in our society are CEOs and Politicians.  The least trusted industries are Oil companies and Advertising.   It is a tough up hill battle for oil sands companies but that is no reason not to engage but REALLY engage.

I think Suncor is one of the leading companies and one of the bright lights and most worthy on its social license to operate in the Alberta oil sands.  There are lots of reasons, OSQAR is only one very small but personal reason I hold this opinion.

So good start Suncor but open OSQAR up for some community feedback please.  People are already talking online and in person about oil sands, Suncor, air quality and a host of other topics that will interest and be about you.  You may as well know what is being said out there about you and your issues.  So come into the new media world with a bit more courage.  Create a space in OSQAR for a dialogue and participate along with Albertans in the conversations that will occur.  You will have ample opportunity to listen, be heard, correct the facts, add evidence and challange some incorrect assumptions if need be.