When you are as big as ExxonMobil, you will issue a sustainability or corporate social responsibility (report) on your own terms: that was the theme of the energy behemoth’s 2010 Corporate Citizenship Report. The report follows the guidelines of the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association and APIOGISR (American Petroleum Institute Oil and Gas Industry Guidance on Sustainability Reporting). The report also cross-references Global Reporting Institute (GRI) guidelines. The 2010 report, however, was not mentioned in ExxonMobil’s news feed, curious considering most companies are in a rush to spread the word about their sustainability reporting.
Critics of ExxonMobil will not be satisfied with anything that one of the world’s largest energy companies says or does, so the report focuses what they company has achieved versus what it said it has done in the past. ExxonMobil is most proud of its achievements on the safety, operational efficiency, and procurement fronts.
Let’s take a look at the goals ExxonMobil has set and where it is so far:
- By 2012, ExxonMobil promises to spend US$1 billion on women- and minority- owned businesses. Last year the company spent over US$800 million on procuring from such businesses, so the odds are the company is on its way to meet that target.
- ExxonMobil was set on improving its energy efficiency by at least 10% across its refining and chemical operations by 2012, and is on track so far. To that end, the company has spent over US$1.6 billion on energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission measures since 2006.
- ExxonMobil is most proud of its work on environmental, health and safety (EHS) issues. The company’s lost-time incident rate declined by 10%; only 11 of its employees or contractors contracted malaria out of the thousands that work in such endemic regions; and the company increased the percentage of women working within its professional ranks.
Here’s what you can expect more of from ExxonMobil: increased natural gas exploration and more extraction from Canada’s oil sands. Advanced biofuels are a long term business prospect for the company, and carbon capture and storage will be on the company’s agenda for reducing CO2 emissions. On the energy efficiency side, ExxonMobil plans on investing in more cogeneration facilities. Another goal is to decrease gas flaring, which has fallen 20% since 2009, at its global crude oil extraction sites.
In sum, the report offers a little something for everyone: partnerships with organizations like The Nature Conservancy and the Land Trust Alliance to mollify critics of ExxonMobil’s environmental stewardship; aggressive monitoring of human rights conditions from Nigeria to Papau New Guinea; and worked on burnishing its corporate governance image by a commitment to anti-corruption training and ensure compliance throughout its supply chain.
As far as dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, ExxonMobil submitted a detailed CSR report. The company’s critics will lash out at the company and assail ExxonMobil for what they believe its executive team did not do. The tone and structure of the report, however, is similar to most CSR disclosures in existence. Those who object to ExxonMobil’s practices can always turn to proxy resolutions, but those are an uphill battle. Shareholders who want the company to do more on water policy or wetlands restoration may be disappointed that their “yes” votes did not exceed 10%, but they still did better than other resolution: to have the company reincorporate in North Dakota, where legislators passed an incorporation law designed to be more shareholder friendly than the laws in Delaware. One fact is transparent throughout the report: ExxonMobil is an oil company and does not pretend to be anything else.