Shell executive calls for decarbonisation of energy

Traditionally, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been the main parties interested in sustainable development, but more recently, the role that businesses can play in achieving this goal has been increasingly emphasized. As Royal Dutch/Shell Group’s Chairman of the Committee of Managing Directors, Philip Watts explained on 5 July, many businesses are committed to sustainable development not only out of ethical concern, but because it makes good business.

At an event organized by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Watts noted that companies are concerned with sustainable development for a number of different reasons. It can increase operational effectiveness by reducing costs through eco-efficiency, as well as increasing innovation, supporting a company’s reputation and attracting motivated and talented people.

Watts, who is also the chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), believes that “business has an essential role to play in contributing to sustainable development – in finding innovative ways of meeting present and future needs that are socially and environmentally sustainable”. One of the ways in which business can do this, is by helping governments remove regulatory barriers to sustainable development or by investing directly in developing countries.

Businesses, therefore, can work with governments and complement governmental actions to some extent. On the other hand, what businesses cannot do is take on the responsibilities of governments.

International energy companies, which featured at the center of Watts’ speech, have an inescapable role in responding to three fundamental challenges facing society: raising living standards throughout the developing world; meeting the increasing demand for energy this requires; and safeguarding out planet for future generations.

As Watts put it, “without energy there can be no development” and as the need for mobility increases around the world, the role of energy becomes ever more crucial. In order to achieve this in a sustainable fashion, Watts urges industries to aim for a progressive decarbonisation of energy and he also believes that there is much more to be achieved in ecotechnology.

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