In the wake of the recent economic crises, it is easy to forget that hundreds of millions of people around the world enjoy a better standard of living today due to the economic progress of the past few decades. This is especially true in the emerging economies, where globalisation and the opening of free markets have greatly expanded the middle class.
Affordable energy has helped fuel this prosperity. Energy runs our computers and lights our homes, it drives our cars and the factories that produce goods and jobs. In the coming decades, our world will expand by another two billion people and prosperity will continue to rise.
But there is a downside to this success: greater prosperity will also place greater strains on our global supplies of energy, water, food and other resources.
Mitigating these stresses will require an unprecedented level of co-operation between governments, industries and society. But today there is ample evidence that the “circle of trust” between these groups is broken.
To address these global issues, we need to find new, innovative ways to foster strong partnerships across business sectors, borders and cultures.
The energy industry has a role to play in helping restore this trust. Our industry invests in large-scale projects that take many years to complete; projects that require co-operation, collaboration and trust, not only between industry and governments, but also between the people to whom we supply the fuels that power prosperity.
The desire to rebuild that trust led a group of energy leaders at last year’s World Economic Forum to initiate development of the Energy for Society Principles. These principles are a first step towards meeting our future energy challenges and restoring confidence between our industry and society.
This initiative aims to focus our industry around principles that foster open and transparent communication and thereby increase understanding and collaborative action. Their aim is to accelerate the continuous improvement of our industry’s operations.
I and 19 other global energy company chief executives have endorsed these principles and they are due to be launched in September.
Through effective collaboration and co-operation, we can meet our future challenges. But we need to get beyond debating and start acting.
The ultimate goal is to develop a sustainable industry that allows us to meet the world’s growing energy needs and continue to improve global living standards, while encouraging decisive leadership to address the increasing stresses on our planet.
As an industry and as leaders, we all share the responsibility to make this work.
About the author: Peter Voser is chief executive officer at Royal Dutch Shell
Photo: Reuters/Bazuki Muhammad