New York-based Equitable Origin, founded in 2009 out of personal experience with oil and gas development and indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon, has introduced the first independent voluntary standards and certification system for responsible oil and gas production. Now, the company plans to do the same for the renewable energy sector, citing the belief that setting social and environmental standards and certifying responsible development will help renewables projects clear hurdles and secure local community support as these expand with efforts to mitigate climate change.
In a statement, Equitable Origin president and co-founder David Poritz, said the organization’s expansion to renewable energy sites such as wind farms and solar installations comes in response to demand from stakeholders affected by renewable development projects.
“In the course of our work, communities and NGOs often approach us with concerns about renewable energy projects and how they will change the local landscape and residents’ lives,” said Mr Poritz. “Their concerns underscore an important, yet often-overlooked reality: the expansion of renewable energy sources is essential to tackling the global climate change crisis, but renewable projects have some of the same local impacts on people and the environment as non-renewable projects. These impacts must be accounted for and mitigated. Reducing impacts will help remove potential barriers to renewable energy development at the local level.”
EO100 performance standard
Equitable Origin has developed the EO100 standard as a comprehensive social and environmental performance standard for responsible business practices for energy development operations. Serving as the foundational standard for its certification, it covers six principles, against which projects are measured:
1 Corporate governance, accountability and ethics
2 Human rights, social impacts and community development
3 Fair labour and working conditions
4 Indigenous peoples’ rights
5 Climate change, biodiversity and environment
6 Project life cycle management.
With certification of a project, stakeholders should be assured that production has been done so responsibly and that steps have been taken to ensure that social and environmental impacts are addressed for the most positive outcome.
Renewable energy addendum to EO100
Earlier this year an addendum to EO100 was approved for shale oil and gas operations. Now development of a renewable energy sector specific addendum is under way in discussion with renewable energy companies, with additional input to be sought from additional companies, as well as community organizations and non-profit groups.
Equitable Origin’s initiative is to be welcomed and will be watched with interest by Engerati. With many new renewables projects expected in all regions, the impact of certification could be significant. For example, in more developed countries land access is likely to become increasingly difficult, making consultation with local stakeholders more critical. In regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and India where access is limited, such certification could have the potential to contribute to job development and community empowerment and ultimately project sustainability.