History’s greatest accomplishments are rarely the result of any single individual’s work. Yes, there may have been a prominent figure in the spotlight – Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Henry Ford, and so on – but more often than not, there’s a wider team collaborating to help turn that person’s vision into reality.
Aided by technology, collaboration today is everywhere. We need only look at the response to Covid-19 to see how the world’s best experts worked round the clock to learn about the virus and crucially, how to stop it from spreading. In a similar vein, creating solutions to keep in contact with remote workforces and colleagues dotted around the world became a commonplace business phenomenon.
It would be an understatement to say the past few years have been anything but plain sailing, not least for the energy sector. Through our international work with companies and operators, we at Vysus Group are experiencing first-hand the challenges the energy trilemma is posing, and it is our responsibility as a sector to collaborate widely in order to navigate the uncertainty and changes which lie ahead.
The first question, therefore, is should we be reconsidering what it means to ‘collaborate’ if we are to achieve the targets set out in the Paris Agreement and at COP26, especially given current world events? And is the value of collaboration being underestimated?
What our network thinks about ‘collaboration’
‘When you join forces across the disciplines you can achieve so much more than when you stick within your own comfort zone. It’s really satisfying and meaningful to be able to achieve things to make a difference for the environment.’ Rene Smidt Lutzen.
‘Oil and gas companies can share learnings and a lot of applicable skills. Working together rather than against each other is how we should look at [the energy transition]. There’s learning on both sides, that's what makes it interesting.’ Emma Haggart
‘It's about drawing the best from people from wherever they are, no matter what geography or what background or what position in the company. [Collaboration] begins with the mindset of saying this is what's needed, do we have the right people? Instead of looking at your toolbox and saying how do I solve this problem, you figure out that's not the only toolbox you have.’ Vishal Lagad
The environment, society, and the energy trilemma
The ‘energy trilemma’ acknowledges the extraordinarily fine and conflicting balance between security, affordability, and sustainability needs, and therefore how this impacts the consumption of energy in our daily lives, both corporately and as individuals. Few would argue that this fine balance has been held under even greater tension since COP26 at the end of 2021.
Though their phase-out must remain a priority, hydrocarbons for the time being hold a vital place in the energy ecosystem. Because of volatility of supplies, exacerbated but not solely caused by the Ukraine situation, oil & gas production will underpin the transition advances and infrastructure modifications that eventually take us towards net zero.
Platforms such as the UN Global Compact provide a valuable framework upon which collaborative working can thrive. According to its 2021 annual survey, 67% of registered participants stated that acquiring knowledge to advance sustainability strategy fell within their top five reasons for their involvement; with the opportunity to network with other organisations cited as being key for 37% of respondents. These statistics suggest that there is an almost instinctive desire for business owners to unite behind shared unifying goals. Isn’t that what should lie at the heart of all collaboration?
Of those that do collaborate, around half do so with another company – 24% also report networking with non-business stakeholders, highlighting the importance of collaboration extending to those outside an organisation’s narrow contact pool. Quite clearly, the environmental health of the planet could hardly be more important to everyone’s future, so why wouldn’t we collaborate, even amongst competing commercial and geopolitical interests?
Indeed, the sharing of knowledge across international borders will continue to be essential in bringing separate energy resources into respective energy matrixes. At Vysus Group, it is not at all uncommon for our teams on opposite sides of the equator to join forces without ever having to get on a plane, such has been the advance of collaborative technologies. Tools such as Microsoft Teams and SharePoint are commonplace, spurred on of course by the pandemic, offering hitherto unimaginable degrees of workspace chat, videoconferencing, file storage, and application integration. They now operate seamlessly in a networked world where remote monitoring and inspections of energy assets, including scenario-modelling, as in the case of our Promaps solution. Of course, these are just a sample of what can assist us going forwards in our quest to collaborate for a more sustainable world.
So where are we at this precise moment on our urgent journey towards a secure, sustainable energy future? The UK, as a recent article (July 2022) in the Daily Telegraph suggests, has one of the most ambitious plans for renewable energy in the world, with some 86GW potentially coming from offshore wind alone, far ahead of China and the US pipelines of 78GW and 48GW respectively. And that is before the likes of solar and nuclear come into consideration. Storage will be crucial here, as will how this extraordinary power can traverse global boundaries.
It will be a significant logistical and technological challenge, one that will require the resource of multiple groups, countries, and indeed, the public, for the UK’s renewable goals to become more than a pipedream. Engineers, innovators, and companies, all need to be in sync.
If we look again at the Global Compact annual survey, it is clear to see that collaborative working is key. Around a quarter of participants cite a lack of both time and resource as holding them back in their contribution to progressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), certainly in terms of where they would otherwise like to be.
Despite all this, it is quite clear that there’s a genuine desire from participants to play their part. Nearly half of the circa 1300 respondents reveal that their company’s board of directors discuss and act on corporate responsibility issues as part of their formal ESG agenda – something which may not have been the case in previous years – and even more importantly, hold themselves accountable. Encouragingly, 54% of those surveyed appoint ‘sub-committee’ members to ensure actions are recorded and adopted, and this is filtering from the very top level through to external suppliers, in the case of diversity inclusion training and climate change advocacy.
But let’s be realistic for a moment. Sustainability needs to be 100% collaboration. 62% of Global Compact members are also engaged with one of the many local networks across the world, yet that still leaves around a quarter (24%) that either are not at all or are unsure whether their organisation does in the first place.
Whatever the reason, collaboration is as much about learning what can be done to improve, as it is the physical implementation.
With that in mind, we got our teams to think again about what collaboration means to them in the context of the energy trilemma…
Vishal Lagad, VP Asset Management Consultant for the Americas: ‘I've been in this industry for 20 years. I've seen how it was before, it used to be ‘I know what I’m doing, stay in your lane, get the job done’. Things are changing. There are people around us who have adopted these new areas of collaboration and are figuring out that the best way to solve a problem is not always what was done traditionally.’
Emma Haggart, Senior Drilling Engineer, Senergy Wells : ‘You need the knowledge and skills because there would not be a renewables industry without the oil and gas industry. You cannot be against it otherwise we won't have a future.’
René Smidt Lützen, Principal Consultant Noise and Vibration: ‘It's teaming up [and] working together, sharing experiences. That’s one thing, but also joining efforts to achieve the targets. It’s the aspect of multiple disciplines which you need to combine, of which I’m just one piece of the puzzle.’
Though the environment is a primary concern for most, when it comes to being ‘sustainable’, there are other areas that need to be under the spotlight. The 17 SDGs upon which the Global Compact is formed provide the ideal platform for cross-goal collaboration, taking skills and knowledge prevalent in one area and transitioning them to other, interconnected circles. This is by no means an instantaneous process – for it to truly work, collaboration needs to go further than simply promoting the rationale and benefits and focus as well on the bigger picture, asking what can be learnt and passed on.
A classic example is the oil & gas sector’s role in advancing the energy transition. Identifying the carbon footprint of an active oil rig's lifecycle can be utilised to assess overall efficiency and be used as the framework for evaluating Scopes One, Two, and Three emissions, all from one pool of data. Collaboration in the form of a multi-disciplinary approach (something which nearly 40% of Global Compact signatories aspire towards in their risk management practices) shares the burden of knowledge and by extension, the level of responsibility through a traceable, transparent operation that holds all parties accountable.
This approach, one we ourselves have embraced at Vysus Group through our AA1000AS AccountAbility Sustainability Assurance licence accreditation, brings technical competencies and knowledge together with specialist environmental expertise, covering both sides of the coin simultaneously.
Time and again, the same statement keeps appearing in media headlines and in conversations with individual stakeholders: we are living in disruptive times. And it’s a point that needs no further explanation. And yet, what we are not hearing enough about is how disparate groups can join more of the dots to make transition possible. That includes internal teams and departments within organisations, which can then join others at the forefront of idea-generation and promotion of processes that position their organisation as an exemplar in advancing energy transition at the pace it needs to.
So let’s return to the beginning, when we asked ourselves if ‘collaboration’ needs to be redefined for the energy transition. Does the dictionary definition still ring true, and does it cover enough ground for these highly disruptive times? Or is collaboration also about rallying others’ contributions and confronting head-on such existential world-changing issues?
What do you think?
VP Risk Management Consulting at Vysus Group
The sharing of knowledge across international borders will continue to be essential in bringing separate energy resources into respective energy matrixes
Robert Nyiredy, VP Risk Management Consulting