Dean Clark, TLE Editor
The SEG Forum, this year focusing on Corporate and Academic Social Responsibility: Engagement or Estrangement, as usual served as the unofficial opening of the Technical Program at the 2012 Annual Meeting with a Monday morning session that featured a panel of four expects efficiently moderated by Mary Lou Zoback of Stanford University.
Zoback established the theme of the two-hour session in her introductory remarks when she cited the "Target model" as a modern example of corporate social responsibility (commonly known as CSR). According to Zoback, Target "donates 5 percent of its profits to communities" which translates into US $4 million per week.
The format of the Forum included 15-minute presentations by the four invited speakers with each talk followed by a five-minute question and answer period. A general Q and A discussion, in which the entire panel participated, concluded the Forum. The audience was small but completely engaged in the subject and responded with enough questions to more than fill the 45 minutes allotted for the general discussion. A new wrinkle was added to the Q and A this year. In the past, all questions from the attendees were written on note cards handed out prior to the start. This year, in addition to the cards, attendees were allowed to electronically submit questions via text messages. The questions were displayed on the two huge screens on each side of the stage.
Johathan Nyquist of Temple University, the first speaker, made the interesting point that the "e word, ecology, which was so popular a few years ago, has now been replaced by the s word, sustainability." In other words, workers in this area have concluded that communities need long-term solutions to problems rather than short-term fixes.
But, as noted by Nyquist and Steve Silliman of Gonzaga University, this is not an easy philosophy to sell to those who are supporting the programs financially. Donors, they pointed out, want to see something tangible result from the money the put into a program and they want to see it pretty quickly. An additional problem with the "long-term" solution is that it is not attractive to many in the academic community because it rarely leads to the kind of papers in "top-tier journals" which are so important to those on a tenure track.
Silliman asked the question, "Why should corporations get involved?" He then answered it with three points – enhances a company's reputation, good for business, and will help build the geoscience workforce which is expected "to have a net deficit of 150, 000 workers by 2021."
Isabelle Lambert of CGGVeritas was the only representative from a private company on the panel. She emphasized that corporate responsibility has become an integral part of the company's culture and that workers are encouraged to submit "responsible" programs that are worthy of company support and that these suggestions are reviewed at the highest level.
She said that this program has proved a valuable recruiting tool because "it's not always easy to get young people interested in coming to work for a company that is associated with the oil and gas business."