Energy is the backbone of a modern economy. Healthcare, education, access to jobs all depend on it. Yet, we live in a world where an estimated 1.3 billion people still have no access to electricity. It is no scoop that energy industry – society relations need to be improved substantially. To meet the challenges, including the forecasted energy consumption growth of 40% by 2035, the industry will need to strengthen social trust and acceptance. That will require changes in both operations and communication from the industry side.

Today the world’s energy industry leaders step up to the challenge by committing to these five principles: supplying secure and affordable access to energy, having efficient energy systems, upholding responsible citizenship in communities, contributing to economic development and promoting energy literacy.

The Energy for Society Initiative is supported by a new online platform with 24 case studies that demonstrate corporate best practices in an endeavour to meet the world’s growing need for energy while improving living standards for those with limited access to energy.

“This is the first time that the global energy community is demonstrating such a commitment to society, not only by sharing their successes and challenges to improve their industry’s business practices with transparency, but also by demonstrating how those principles might be implemented concretely,” says Roberto Bocca, Senior Director, Head of Energy Industries, World Economic Forum.

The founding 20 signatories of the initiative collectively head energy firms that employ 1.4 million people and record US$ 1.4 trillion in revenues per year. They comprise all sectors of the energy industry, including oil & gas, utilities, technology and renewable energy.

“The initiative marks an important step towards rebuilding trust among the energy industry, government and society,” said Peter Voser, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Dutch Shell, Netherlands. “I hope it will help foster closer collaboration to address some of the world’s energy-related challenges.”

Examples of best practices include a partnership between Siemens and the Government of Mexico, which has brought renewable energy solutions to a remote Mexican village where people have been living without running water or access to power. In Angola, BP set up an energy literacy programme at a university, the first of its kind in Africa. In Tibet, Trina Solar built 40 off-grid solar power stations to provide electricity to citizens who have been living without an electricity grid for basic necessities. This programme is a milestone in the solar industry for the region as it shows the advantages of solar energy as a distributed power source.

The Energy industry needs to rebuild trust with society if it is to meet the planet’s future energy needs. But we are all stakeholders in this endeavour. We all need to work together. The Energy for Society Initiative is a significant first step towards the ultimate goal of providing sustainable energy and better living standards for citizens around the world.


About the author: Pawel Konzal is the Director, Head of Oil and Gas Industry at the World Economic Forum

Pictured: An aerial view of a field with wind turbines in Belgium. REUTERS/Yves Herman