For Jesse Beaudry, VP of sustainability at Connacher Oil and Gas Limited, sustainability is more than just a bit of corporate marketing jargon; it’s a vital component to building a better bottom line. “I believe you can balance sustainability with business and make a real contribution to the environment in the process,” he explains.
Controlling roughly 500 million barrels of proved and probable bitumen reserves, the company runs two oil-sands production facilities. “For a company of Connacher’s size to be operating plants in the oil sands is unique,” says Beaudry, who received an MBA from the University of Calgary in 2012. “Five years ago, when I started working in the oil sands, we had no facilities there—and now we have two up and running, and we face environmental issues all the time.” Balancing financial demands, regulatory requirements, and the frenetic pace of oil-sands development provides a never-ending challenge. “You really get to test the boundaries of your knowledge when you are associated with the oil sands,” Beaudry says.
He adds that the best aspect of his job is the feeling of accomplishment he gets. “I like to say that Connacher is the ‘blue collar’ face of sustainability because we produce real results,” he says. “I love the accountability that comes with saying what you are going to do and then actually doing it.”
Those achievements are the result of having a dedicated team of environmental experts who work tirelessly to keep the company on a green track. “I believe that my team here is the strongest team in our industry,” Beaudry says.
One of the projects Beaudry is most proud of is Connacher’s attention to wildlife management. “It’s hard to predict the behaviour of animals,” he notes. “We work to assess migration patterns and try to understand caribou behaviour so that we can create effective wildlife crossings over our pipelines.”
Building a wildlife crossing, however, involves more than covering up a portion of the pipeline. “We brought in a lot of consultants and regulatory bodies and built five different types of crossings, each with their own unique characteristics,” Beaudry explains. “Then we installed permanent cameras and reviewed the video so that we could determine which ones actually worked the best.” That information is leveraged in the construction of new facilities. “It costs money, and there’s a lot of work involved, but it’s a learning process—and the more you do, the better you get at it,” he says.
The oil sands is an expense place to do business. That means that a small company like Connacher has to pay strict attention to the bottom line. “If we can find ways to accelerate reclamation efforts, or reduce fuel use, or recycle more water, or dispose of less waste—those things have a profound impact on how well the company does,” Beaudry says.
He promotes sustainability by making sure it is a common point of discussion among Connacher executives. “A lot of our sustainability projects impact the bottom line positively,” he notes. “By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for instance, you can usually cut operating costs. Having engineers and environmental experts in a room talking about the life cycle of a project lets you plan projects far in advance, saving money in the long term.”
Increasingly, stakeholders want to know what a company is doing to lessen its environmental impact. “People want to know that a company is considering and implementing projects that will positively impact the environment,” Beaudry says. That includes investors, public officials, the general public and even employees’ own children. “That’s why I stay at Connacher—I know that the company is actually working on projects that help the environment.”