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Oil and Gas

The oil and gas industry is a critical linchpin in building a more sustainable global economy. Capital investments made today will determine energy sources for decades to come, whether from conventional oil production, natural gas or renewable energy. Climate change, carbon-reducing regulations, water scarcity and a growing reliance on unconventional fuel sources are forcing the oil and gas industry to consider a wider spectrum of options for meeting rising global energy demand. Businesses that successfully navigate these competing interests will be best positioned in the emerging low-carbon global economy.

Fueling the Future

Picture of oil well at sunset.The oil and gas industry is a critical linchpin in building a more sustainable global economy. Capital investments made today, whether into conventional oil and gas, unconventionals like shale gas and oil sands, or renewable energy, have the potential to determine our energy mix for decades to come.

Ceres is concerned not just with where the industry is investing capital, but in how companies manage the myriad of environmental and social risks associated with those massive investments. We are focused particularly on the risks and opportunities associated with unconventional resources—oil sands, shale gas and deepwater oil and gas. In recent years, the industry has focused heavily on unconventionals. While the size of these resources represents a tremendous opportunity for oil and gas companies, their development carries with it significant environmental and social risks, whether from the carbon intensity of the oil sands; the water intensity of shale gas development; or the spill risks associated with the challenging deepwater drilling environment.

Businesses that successfully manage these risks will be best positioned in the emerging low-carbon, water-scarce global economy. Companies that fail to manage these risks, as BP’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico indicates, face the potential for massive financial losses.

As the industry’s risk profile increases due to more difficult extraction methods and increased environmental concerns, so does the potential risk exposure for investors. Fossil fuels face ever increasing regulatory and market risks while clean energy solutions like wind, solar and next-generation bio-fuels hold significant promise, both for investors looking to mitigate risks in their long-term investments and for companies looking to remain competitive in a clean energy, carbon-constrained world.

Oil and Gas Initiatives

Ceres works closely with oil and gas companies, investors, regulators and public interest groups to address the ever-increasing risks and opportunities associated with energy production, including carbon emissions, water use impacts, and health and safety concerns. Improved company disclosure of these risks and opportunities is a key driver of this work.

Stakeholder Engagement

Ceres, drawing on the expertise of our coalition, organizes regular stakeholder engagements with oil and gas companies including Suncor, Chesapeake, and Apache. We bring together corporate executives, investors and public policy groups to increase transparency push for bold action on the environmental and social risks companies are facing.

We're challenging energy firms to use more benign production methods that use less water and toxic chemicals and reduce overall environmental impacts in communities where they operate. We’re encouraging firms to consider –and disclose – all environmental and social costs from their operations.

Investor Action

Ceres has helped organize a $4 trillion investor coalition to focus attention on the wide-ranging environmental, social and business risks associated with the development of oil sands. We’ve engaged across the industry, met with regulators and brought investors from Asia, Europe and the United States together to meet with business leaders as well as U.S. and Canadian government officials in an effort to better disclose and manage the far-reaching risks and opportunities from this enormous undertaking.

In summer 2010, in the aftermath of the BP spill, Ceres organized dozens of investors to call on oil companies and the insurance companies that cover them to disclose their safety and cleanup plans for deepwater drilling.

Policy and Regulatory Action

Ceres works regionally, nationally and globally to improve policies and regulations that will help usher in the new clean energy economy.

California Climate Policy: 
In 2010, companies in the Ceres-led Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP) along with investor leaders in our coalition publicly denounced and helped defeat Proposition 23 in California, which would have halted the state's landmark clean energy law. Read more...

National Climate and Energy Policies:
 Nationally, Ceres and its corporate and investor members have touted the need for comprehensive climate and energy policies that would reduce carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.

International Climate Agreement: 
Globally, Ceres has organized companies as part of BICEP as well as our investor members to urge governments around the world to adopt a strong and binding international treaty that will reduce carbon pollution and catalyze large-scale global investment in low-carbon technologies. Read more...

Education and Benchmarking

Ceres produces cutting-edge reports on wide-ranging sustainability risks for the industry, including climate change strategies, water scarcity management and regulatory and policy developments. Our reports set new standards and provide best practices for corporations and investors looking to improve sustainability disclosure and performance.

The 2010 Ceres report, Canada's Oil Sands: Shrinking Window of Opportunity, examines how water and land reclamation regulations, climate change and other environmental and social issues may adversely affect the future of oil sands development in Alberta, Canada.

In February 2014, Ceres published Hydraulic Fracturing & Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers. This study maps nearly 40,000 hydraulically-fractured shale wells against measures of water stress in the United States, showing that a significant portion of this activity is happening in regions that are already facing stiff competition for water, most prominently Texas and Colorado. It identifies that industry efforts underway, such as expanded use of recycled water and non-freshwater resources, need to be dramatically scaled up along with better water management planning.

Also in 2014, in conjunction with Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, Ceres released an Oil & Gas Sector Report analyzing how well U.S. Oil & Gas companies are doing to integrate sustainability into their business practices.

In March 2011, we issued a white paper evaluating the industry’s handling of deepwater oil drilling risks in the wake of the BP spill. The white paper was based on oil company disclosures in response to investor query letters.

For more information

Read recent news, download reports and listen to podcasts about the oil and gas industry using the links on the right of this page.


To learn more about how Ceres works with the oil and gas industry, or to get involved in Ceres' work, contact Andrew Logan, Director of Ceres Oil and Gas Program.