• Whitney McKenzie

CAPL's 38th Annual Conference: An overview from an Engagement Advisor


Two weeks ago, I attended the CAPL's 38th annual conference that was held here in Calgary, Alberta. As a newcomer to the ‘land’ world, I was surprised to see the fruitful discussion centered on the above-ground risks that penetrate my daily life as an Engagement Advisor here at BRITT. Social media, activism and Social License to Operate (or SLO) were just a few terms that peaked my interest and made me feel at home. It seemed that almost every speaker and session discussed the importance of relationships and communication to some degree.

CAPL had an exceptional, diverse line up of speakers. To start was Jeremy Gutsche, an innovation expert and CEO of TrendHunter who told us to "disrupt or be disrupted." I've been thinking about this advice since and its relevance to our industry's status. We are in an era of increased connectivity and hyper-transparency that allows a company's operational performance to be easily scrutinized, coalesced into wider social narratives of environmental and human injustice, and spread at alarming rates.

We are seeing this happen right now with Kinder Morgan's TransMountain Pipeline Expansion, Energy Transfer Partners v. Greenpeace, and BC's lower mainland's crusade against natural gas. The energy industry is being disrupted through these often inaccurate depictions and throughout the conference experts reiterated that the onus is on us to collectively rebuild trust and bridge the gap with communities. The AER has initiated a process to rebuild faith with stakeholders through their Integrated Decision Approach, which will impact participant involvement requirements (read more here). They aren't the only regulator to do this - the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency are also adapting to meet the public's demands. As an industry, we also need to do our part; perhaps we begin by putting increased effort into relationship development and growth, and help educate Canadian society more broadly through social media and other communication modes to help build energy literacy and demonstrate our continued commitment to be good corporate citizens in Alberta.

The energy industry has shied away from using social media to communicate and have allowed others to tell our story. At the conference, Michael Tran, Director of Energy Strategy at RBC Capital Markets, gave us an outlook on the oil and gas industry based on extensive research and some serious number crunching. Afterwards, he was asked about what kept him up at night and his response was: social media. Mr. Tran, like myself, is concerned that public trust in governments and industry is diminishing, as social media continues to be used for the powerful tool that it is to spread anti-energy rhetoric. As an industry we've been reluctant to engage in these types of public conversations and share our success stories. So, what does industry-wide disruption and powerful social media tactics mean for us and our landowners, investors, contractors, stakeholders, regulators and the industry's other stakeholders? If I heard these experts correctly, it means we (from individuals to companies) need to get serious about earning our reputation. The Right Honourable Stephen Harper reiterated the importance of getting into communities and building stronger relationships, echoing the sentiments of Mr. Tran.

These disruptions mean that we need to make long-term investments in our brands, and industry more broadly, by doing better, faster (as Gutsche would say). We need to grow our relationships and social capital with the communities in which we operate to develop better and stronger relationships, and we need to do this fast. We need to be better at actively communicating with Canadians, and faster at responding to their concerns. We need to better understand the importance of earning our reputation, fast. CAPL members - we need to be better and faster.


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