It only takes a few seconds talking with Dr. Randall Gossen to be inspired by his immense knowledge of public-private energy partnerships. With his down-to-earth, approachable manner and a PhD in Soil Microbiology, he can explain the process of upstream and downstream oil production in one sentence, and in the next speak with enthusiasm about CSR, the importance of his wife and family of 5 children, and his hobbies (flying his own L4 Grasshopper plane (used as an artillery spotter in WWII), and playing the piano). He heeds the very advice that he gives his kids, namely to have a high self-esteem and at least one stress relief mechanism. For him, flying and the piano provide this outlet—when doing these activities, he cannot focus on anything else. Indeed, Randy Gossen had many surprising experiences and insights to divulge to our editors.
As Vice president of Safety, Environment, and Social Responsibility at Nexen, Inc. in Calgary, Canada, Randy has had some quite amazing experiences. After finishing his Bachelor’s degree in biology, he traveled to Colombia and worked with an FAO team to develop the first national park in the country. In addition, he helped to take inventory of the flora and fauna of the area, about which little was known at the time. This was during the late 1960s when guerrilla violence was just beginning to flare up in a few pockets of the country. His time in Colombia not only served as an impetus for his professional development and interest in soil microbiology and the environment, but was a turning point in his personal life as well: here he also met his wife.
On another project, ‘Operation Green Turtle’ he worked with Florida State University and the US Navy to help repopulate the Caribbean with green sea turtles. He assisted with the release of hatchlings and eggs flown by the Navy to strategic points around the Caribbean.
Upon returning to Canada, Randy started working for the Arctic gas pipeline project where he was responsible for environmental research studies on northern flora and fauna. He then began working with Imperial Oil Ltd. where his assignments included managing an oil sands project in northern Alberta. Looking back, he remembers how much corporate attitudes have changed toward CSR, because when he joined, he was seen as the ‘token environmentalist.’ Business did not yet perceive the value-added in environmental sustainability. At Imperial Oil, Randy gained a strong foundation in the oil industry and stayed with them for 18 years, at which point he took the opportunity to move on and join Nexen, Inc., which was just starting to expand to become international. This was 16 years ago.
Nexen had already taken a leadership role on the path to sustainability during the early 1990s. They conducted business on the principle that the communities in which they work have a legitimate right to contribute to decision-making and benefits generated in their area. This belief led Nexen to react to widespread concerns about the impact of oil companies on the environment and human rights in Nigeria. Before the existence of the United Nations Global Compact and the emergence of the CSR movement, Nexen took the initiative to lead the formulation of a statement of values and principals that was endorsed by 12 other companies, NGOs, and the local government. Furthermore, as one of the drafters of the International Code of Ethics for Canadian Business, Randy Gossen helped to ensure that companies uphold certain standards in the areas of human rights, community participation, environmental protection, business conduct, employee rights, health and safety.
More recently, Randy followed these same principles in Yemen where Nexen partnered with UNDP and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with the objective of providing enhanced water and sanitation to a community in the vicinity of Nexen’s field operations. This project will also ensure local capacity building and effective management of these water resources. This partnership project is an extension of Nexen's community affairs program in Yemen which was initiated in the early 1990’s. Nexen acknowledges their responsibility to be accountable to local communities in Yemen, as their activities make up 25% of Yemen’s GDP. In Yemen, the biggest concern revolves around the basic need for water access, as ground water is the prime source and is challenging to tap into. In addition to water, the program has concentrated its community efforts on areas of health and education, helping to build hospitals and schools. In its early stages, the UNDP partnership project has experienced substantial obstacles, but Randy Gossen and Nexen have been patient with the process, realizing that all the partners are still learning how to best take advantage of the different roles and strengths of each partner organization. Randy vigorously stresses the need for the UN to perceive companies as more than just donors and also to simplify the process by allowing local ownership and more authority to UN project staff on the ground. Nexen continues to collaborate with the UN and CIDA to overcome these obstacles and in doing so has demonstrated its active support of the United Nations Global Compact aims and principals.
Randy is a lucky man – he does his job because he likes it! He feels very content to work for a company that mirrors his own views and is committed to the Global Compact. He attributes Nexen’s active role in the United Nations Global Compact to the dedication of his CEO, Charlie Fischer, who is “an enlightened individual with a social conscience.” CEO commitment, he asserted, is key to active participation in the United Nations Global Compact. To Randy, this consciousness means that “the company still has a primary responsibility to its shareholders, but not at any cost.” Business can only be successful if the community stakeholders are also successful. Otherwise, business activities cause conflict and discontent, which does not help anyone. He is convinced that “no single group can do as much as partnerships” and applauds those who are active participants in the United Nations Global Compact. He urges those who are still “on the fence,” and perceive membership in the United Nations Global Compact as good PR, to instead embrace it as an integral part of the company.
To contact Randy Gossen, write to:
801-7th Avenue S.W.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
*The editors conducted a personal interview with Randy Gossen
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