"The era in which companies allotted a certain sum to philanthropy" without a sustainable business model behind them "is over", suggests Maria Bernarda Zapata, one of the figures responsible for administering Corporate Responsibility at Repsol. A better-informed and "much more demanding" society calls on companies to integrate within their strategy a preventive focus to avoid the potential negative impacts of their operations, along with mechanisms to deal with them. A responsibility which the more advanced sector of the business world sees as a voluntary aspect, going beyond the legal requirements, while being linked to the ethical values of the surrounding context.
In September this year Repsol published its 2013-2014 sustainability plans at the corporate level and for the eight countries where it has its most significant operations: Spain and Portugal, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, USA, Peru and Venezuela. Each plan includes between 30 and 80 specific initiatives, with measurable indicators, intended to provide a response to the expectations of stakeholders, from investors to consumers, in fields such as governance, human rights and employment practices. Issues which "have a clearly positive influence on a company's bottom line, but cannot be seen from one year to the next".
Companies have a responsibility to respect them, without violating third-party rights, while redressing any consequences which their activities may generate. A responsibility which must also be shown in commercial dealings with suppliers, contractors and partners. "It is essential" that companies exercise their influence "above all when working in countries where, for example, employment legislation is much laxer than in Europe". Repsol has begun to undertake "specific ethics and human rights audits of our suppliers" and is incorporating clauses setting out a commitment to respect such rights in the operational contracts signed with partners. These plans also include positive selection practices which will reward those contractors offering the highest safety standards, and Special Employment Centres which employ differently abled people in Spain.
Repsol's sustainability policy likewise impacts on the need to work with local communities, since "it is not enough simply to have the required public permits; what matters is to achieve agreement and collaboration". This is what is known as social licence to operate, a task which, if it is not performed, ultimately "generates an operational cost, in terms of delays, strikes or blockades". The plans list actions which range from the signature of agreements with the indigenous Kichwa and Waorani peoples in Ecuador to support for social and cultural initiatives in towns nearby its refineries in Spain.
Repsol's sustainability policy likewise impacts on the need to work with local communities.
Sustainability indices are another tool available to the market to evaluate companies. These include in particular the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, "given its global significance". Repsol has been the leading company in its sector on this demanding index, which has admitted only 15 of the 125 oil companies analysed. The EU is now working towards a Non-Financial Reporting Directive which will force all European companies with more than 500 workers to present in their annual report significant information on their environmental, social and employment policies. An initiative which "will help bring non-financial performance onto the radar screens of many investors".
The EU is now working towards a Non-Financial Reporting Directive which will force all European companies with more than 500 workers to present in their annual report significant information on their environmental, social and employment policies.