Calendar13 March 2024

Ipieca Executive Director Brian Sullivan reflects on how the personal commitment of many has driven the partnerships to advance action on climate, nature, people and sustainability issues.

This year marks Ipieca's 50ᵗʰ anniversary and like other round number-based celebrations, it provides an opportunity for reflection, perhaps with at least one eye on the future.

Ipieca is an industry association, a coalition of companies and fellow associations connected for a common purpose. On the surface that sounds a little dry. It doesn't represent the most important feature that has underpinned our longevity and our future - the people; past, present and future who have or will contribute to the shared goals of the association.

Most of the people involved have come from our member companies. When we were first established, a handful of people from a handful of companies, agreed the aims and purpose of Ipieca. Today, at the last count, around 1,000 subject matter experts from 47 companies and 32 associations convene through Ipieca to share their knowledge, views on emerging issues and develop good practices available for all.

Collaborating for greater, faster, outcomes

The basis for all this collaboration is the understanding within the companies that sharing expertise and partnering leads to greater, faster outcomes than working in isolation. The companies have created the platform for collaboration, the people they send to use it make it soar.

Having worked for Ipieca for the last 12 years I can see it. Thought leaders and experts who make a significant positive impact within their companies, leap at the opportunity to share and bring their colleagues from the industry with them. Their potential impact escalates from the small percentage of the industry they work for, to the rest of the membership (around half the world’s oil and gas production) and beyond to the wider industry as most of our guidance is freely available.

Sustainability leadership

There are too many to name individually, but time and again I see examples of leadership, generosity of knowledge and time across the spectrum of Ipieca’s work on climate, nature, people and sustainability. This leadership can take the form of inspiring their colleagues from the membership to get involved in our work programmes; showing how their companies have implemented our guidance; and perhaps the greatest challenge of all, to reach consensus on challenging topics that promotes positive progress, even if not completely aligned with their individual company’s position.

Leadership like this is a key part of the Ipieca value proposition as it provides opportunities for members to hear directly from industry experts on the key issues and to learn practices that advance environmental and social performance. This openness to new ideas and ways of working from across the membership is key to Ipieca’s longevity and our future.

People are key to successful partnerships

Stakeholders from beyond the industry are also a key part of our journey. Many of the key publications and breakthroughs in our history, have been the result of partnerships with UN institutions, civil society groups and other business organisations. Our work on oil spill preparedness with the International Maritime Organisation, the phase out of leaded gasoline with the UN Environment Programme, the publications on the Sustainable Development Goals with the UN Development Programme, the International Finance Corporation and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the guidance on human rights due diligence with the Danish Institute for Human Rights are all examples where the collaboration has resulted in stronger positive outcomes and real progress on the ground.

Personal commitment, generosity and courage are key to successful collaboration in sustainability.

These partnerships are not easy to establish and maintain and they rely on the people involved to have the vision, insight and the courage to promote the opportunities within their organisations, sometimes encountering opposition along the way. This aspect of our work is increasingly challenging but there are insightful people who continue to see the importance of partnership with Ipieca to address the major challenges facing the world.

Supported by a great team

Last but by no means least are the people who work in the Ipieca Secretariat. We have been fortunate over the years to have consistently built teams who have lived our values of enthusiasm for our work, proactivity, collaboration and professionalism. They go well beyond the dictionary definition of a secretariat (a permanent administrative office) and are another example of how people elevate our work and out impact as an association. Their passion for the subjects we deal with are key to encouraging the leadership from the members and the collaboration with the stakeholders that drive the positive impacts at scale that we strive for.

What’s next for Ipieca?

So looking forward, what lies ahead? Ipieca will continue to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of our members as their portfolios respond to the challenges of the energy transition.

Climate, nature, people and sustainability will be central themes facing the world’s population for the foreseeable future. Companies will continue to be expected to operate in ways that are environmentally and socially responsible with positive impacts and disclose how they are doing it in a full and transparent manner.

As the pressure to continuously improve performance escalates, so will the need for collaboration within the industry and beyond. As long as Ipieca can continue to attract outstanding and passionate people from our members, stakeholders and staff, we have an important future ahead of us.

Brian Sullivan

Executive Director

Brian joined Ipieca as the Executive Director in 2011 following a 23 year career in bp. He graduated in Metallurgy and Materials Science from Imperial College, London, UK and was recruited into bp's Refining and Marketing international graduate programme in 1986.

During his time with bp he has had a varied career of technical, commercial, financial and leadership roles across the downstream value chain including crude and products trading, marine fuels, lubricants and alternative energy.

During his tenure at Ipieca, he has overseen the growth of the Association and leads their contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the Energy Transition. 2022 saw the launch of the Ipieca Principles, a new condition of membership promoting support for UN agreements and practices that align with them.

Brian is a Fellow of the Energy Institute.

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