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CEOs need to get in front of the oil sands story

Jul 21, 2010

by Paul Marck

Top guns of industry can put a face on Alberta’s biggest economic engine

By Paul Marck

If you are a CEO in this province, you need to get out in front of the oil sands story and start telling it to the Canadian public, your customers, and the rest of the world. No more excuses, no more hiding behind the skirts of industry associations and corporate flaks. It is up to you, Mr. or Ms. CEO, to take the message to the Empire Club, the Vancouver and Montreal boards of trade and even to the local Rotary meeting. And while you are at it, book some face time with your American contacts as well.

This is as much a matter of corporate responsibility as is setting spending and exploration plans, strategic direction and any number of other duties of a CEO. And it is not just the top brass among the oil sands players who need to get on the public relations bandwagon. Everybody who heads a company, does business here and benefits from Alberta’s publicly owned resources needs to beat the drum wherever they go.

Why? Because it is the best, most credible way to deflect the attacks emanating from the likes of Corporate Ethics International and other advocacy organizations that twist facts and misrepresent the scope of development of the oil sands. Our most important industry lacks a face and a voice. It really is not government’s job to promote and defend the oil sands this way. Too much of the time, it smacks of propaganda. Industry organizations, for all the good they do, cannot convey a message that carries nearly the same weight when delivered by a corporate head honcho. It is a simple fact that the news cycle perks up for industry titans and goes looking for a better story when lesser lights deliver the message.

Other issues aside, the biggest image problem the oil sands has is one of being monolithic and faceless. It really is time to change that. When you are captain of the ship, you need to reassure the passengers in times of stormy seas, not just show how deftly you can steer the boat.


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2 Responses to CEOs need to get in front of the oil sands story

  1. Pat Haynes says:


    As a CEO putting his big toe followed by the rest of his body into tar sands, I agree.

    Patrick haynes

  2. Rana Varma says:

    Interesting perspective, I almost wonder if those very same CEO’s are almost resisting becoming the face of something which could have such harsh backlash. Take for example the whole fiasco with BP and how Hayward cracked under pressure, and now has left the CEO role to fulfill another position.