Top Trends Transforming Land
What is “Transformation?"
Change. Profound, fundamental change. It is a new way of being. “…successful transformation means more than merely adapting to change; it means rewriting business models or even reshaping your own industry...” -Forbes
The landscape has changed for those of us who started in Land in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Entering a career in Land in Western Canada was synonymous with a career in Oil and Gas. Fast forward to 2021, and the story has changed. The sector has taken a beating in economic downturns, oil prices and a negative perception of fossil fuels. It can seem like dire straits for a Land professional, so where do we go from here?
In this article we will examine 4 key trends affecting Land and staying one step ahead.
Mergers, Acquisitions, Defunct Parties
The Energy Transition
The emergence of new energy development has also caused a divergent competitive landscape and at the same time a coming together of innovative minds worldwide. Renewable energy, hydrogen, lithium power, nuclear and numerous other forms of energy must rely on the creative intellect of those who started in fossil fuels. New types of energy development require process, regulation, policies and standards. And who better to lead the way than those that have been there, done that, and know how to do it even better?
Characteristics of a Land professional often include relationship building, robust communication skills, attention to detail, analytical and strategic thinking, regulatory proficiency and thinking outside the box. Those all seem pretty appealing to a new industry looking to be sustainable and successful.
While the development of fossil fuels continues to be an important and leading energy source worldwide, new energy sectors are moving and growing at a fast pace. The Land professional who grew up, skinned their knees, and learned great lessons from their experience in fossil fuel development will continue to elevate that industry and in addition, will be leaders in new energy. It is an opportunity to adapt, to evolve and not be left behind.
Across all jurisdictions and all provinces, we are seeing a focus on Stakeholder and Indigenous engagement, as well as a movement towards proponent led engagement with a wholistic approach vs a prescribed process.
Recent regulatory changes supporting this focus include: AER’s Public Involvement Draft Directive sent for comment in 2019, CER’s Early Engagement Guide, PIP requirements under AUC Rule 007, and announced changes to BC OGC’s consultation and notification requirements granted stakeholders additional time to respond to notification and invitations to consult. The BC EAO new Act and Regulations came into effect Dec 2019. Three core areas were highlighted:
Enhancing public confidence by ensuring impacted First Nations, local communities and governments and the broader public can meaningfully participate in all stages of environmental assessment through a process that is robust, transparent, timely and predictable;
Advancing reconciliation with First Nations; and
Protecting the environment while offering clear pathways to sustainable project approvals by providing certainty of process and clarity of regulatory considerations including opportunities for early indications of the likelihood of success. Engagement is at the forefront of the requirements.
With proponent led engagement, the proponent needs to determine engagement is thorough, meets requirements, mitigations are in place and comfortable moving forward with an application. This requires a more strategic and thorough approach to consultation and notification.
We are also seeing a greater need and requirement for strong consultation records management. Gone are the days of jotting down a few rough notes from a meeting and tucking it away in a notebook in the back of a truck. Detailed records management has become a vital part of project applications, decision making tools, and capturing the history of a relationship with a stakeholder. The most effective consultation records are those that are done with a compliance-led mindset. Understanding the regulatory requirements that may come into play, starting the records tracking early, and being non-routine ready.
Mergers, Acquisitions, Defunct Parties
Changing roles, changing companies, changing process, and new systems. Sound familiar? This is common for anyone in the energy sector. Coupled with the pandemic and need to work from home, online access to information has become paramount. Project information, digital copies of agreements and online ways for teams to collaborate are strategic priorities for land departments. Agility is a key competency to work through these changes.
In addition to mergers and acquisitions, the increase in defunct companies has caused a ripple effect in industry. Many companies are receiving notices for payment from the Surface Rights Board advising them they are a working interest partner and now responsible for surface rentals. And being responsible for surface rentals is only a part of it. When there is a viable working interest partner ("WIP"), they will be responsible for the well and site including closure and reclamation. If there are multiple WIPs, they will share responsibility of the site. Knowing how to properly navigate this will decrease risk and cost.
Social Risk is a material risk. Social risks are part of non-technical risks and make up the #1 hurdle facing projects today. Not only is risk the actual hazard, it is also amplified by emotion and outrage.* When consultation & engagement with the public goes wrong, there are both regulatory paths and social outlets for the public to voice concerns. Results of stakeholder relations affect project progress, corporate success, and reputation.
How a company handles their social impact, as well as their environmental footprint and overall transparency and ethical governance is now a vital ingredient – the “ESG” ingredient – for energy companies to be successful. The largest investment firms are looking to invest in high rated ESG businesses including over $36 trillion in ESG investment funds.
Not only are investment dollars not flowing to companies who are neglecting their ESG, data shows “publicly traded conscious businesses outperformed and delivered up to 10x the value of their non-ESG peers." ~Harvard
The next challenge for ESG focused companies is to acknowledge that ESG is an investors measurement report, and the real change comes from being a conscious business. A conscious business is one that lives ESG values, incorporates high purpose and a caring culture, partners with other businesses and suppliers who operate consciously, and one that has a greater stakeholder awareness and participation.
How to stay ahead? Adversity and overcoming challenges are nothing new to the energy sector and nothing new to the Land professional. With these current trends affecting how we work and what we do requires education, adaptability, a conscious mindset and advocacy. Some of these trends are felt first-hand in Land while others, like ESG, may seem like something an organization must tackle at the executive level. However, do not dismiss the ESG movement and the impact it can have. In Land we are on the front lines and often have a direct impact on how our stakeholders view our company. By prioritizing stakeholder and Indigenous engagement and approaching our work with an abundance mindset of win-win-win, we can build trust and gain advocates not adversaries.
Do you have more questions about ESG?
Fill out our Needs Assessment and book a call to examine how our team can support your ESG goals.
*Dr Peter Sandman