It was Yemi Akinkugbe’s turn to discuss corporate responsibility in the natural gas industry, a subject that is in his wheelhouse. He is the chief excellence officer for Southpointe-based CNX Resources Corp., a prominent gas producer in the Appalachian Basin.
“We are a locally based company that takes our role in sustaining local communities seriously,” he said. “Our team and executives are locally based. This reflects our goal. We work where we live, we live where we work. When a community is successful, we are successful.”
Akinkugbe was one of three speakers during a Wednesday webinar presented by Washington & Jefferson College’s Center for Energy Policy and Management. He, Will Jordan, general counsel for EQT Corp., and analyst Mason Gregory focused primarily on environmental, social and governance goals that companies practice – or should practice – in the industry.
ESG was a commonly used acronym during the 72-minute session, as all three stressed the importance of cooperating and being transparent with local stakeholders – consumers, elected officials, regulators and investors.
“We believe natural gas will continue to be an important platform for the United States,” Akinkugbe said. “We want to continue to produce natural gas in a safe and responsible manner.”
Jordan, also a vice president and chair of the ESG committee at Pittsburgh-based EQT, echoed those sentiments. “Strong ESG performance in this industry is a key to long-term, sustainable value creation,” he said. “We’re looking for financial performance along with environmental performance.”
He and Akinkugbe added that their companies reach out financially to communities.
Jordan referred to carbon emissions as “the elephant in the room. It is important to show we are trying to improve our operations. We have to reduce emissions.”
He envisions a future where energy demand will be met by a mix of natural gas and other sources, adding that 100% reliance on renewables isn’t feasible.
“Natural gas, we believe, will be leading energy sources in a low-carbon future.” Jordan said. “There could be opportunities to diversify, although wind and solar are not strong businesses in this region.”
ESG is a specialty for Gregory, a senior analyst for MFS Investment Management in Boston. He said “companies have to adapt operations to be more sustainable. Regulators have to be more long term. Companies that adapt are able to invest in further development.”
The webinar was part of the CEPM’s Shale Gas Knowledge Hub initiative.