Code of Ethics
Here is my professional code of ethics with respect to work opportunities in the energy sector.
- I have personally committed to a carbon-neutral lifestyle since 2010. To that end, I minimize travel on machines powered by fossil fuels whenever possible. Also, I purchase carbon offsets to offset CO2 emissions resulting from my travel or lifestyle.
- I generally do not work for ANY company with direct or indirect ties to the oil and gas industry. That includes pipeline construction, energy commodities trading and support services (IT, logistics) where the primary beneficiary is an oil and gas company.
- I generally will not write market reports or analyses of the energy sector if the primary customers are fossil fuel companies OR a significant amount of the reporting concerns the fossil fuel sector.
- I will not perform work for a company if I feel that my actions at work might cause more fossil fuels to be used or bought. That would include transportation companies and car dealerships (unless it were using or promoting the use of electric-powered vehicles). If I felt that a company or agency’s overarching goals were to help society transition away from transportation powered by fossil fuels, I could still be comfortable with it providing support to existing vehicles over their normal lifespan (despite being powered by fossil fuels).
- I will do work in safety or remediation only if I am convinced that the primary purpose of this work is not simply to demonstrate regulatory compliance in order for more fossil fuels to be bought or sold or consumed.
- For IT consulting, I will not be able to work directly for a client whose primary business is producing or encouraging the sale of fossil fuel products. I understand that a consulting company may work with clients in different sectors, but if it appears that a significant amount of the company’s work (i.e., 40% or more) is for a client in the fossil fuel industry, I wouldn’t be able to do it.
- Dual use technologies. IT tools can be used by many different sectors — and not just fossil fuel industries. But if a tool has features specifically tailored to the energy sector, and if a large percentage of its user base comes from the fossil fuel industry, I would not be able to produce technical or marketing documentation or instructional material about this product.
- For companies which make or sell things derived from chemicals or plastics (like electronics, pharmaceuticals, and other consumer products), I generally have no issue with that as long as these products can be used and produced efficiently and sustainably. If a company produces, sells or supports products powered by fossil fuels or manufactured specifically to support fossil fuel infrastructure, I would probably be unable to work there, although I would examine each opportunity on an individual basis.
- For companies which sell business-oriented goods and services. If a company provides specialized tools or services to help customers to run their businesses, but if customers from the fossil fuel industries constitute an overwhelming percentage of the company’s customers, I would have to view that opportunity with greater scrutiny. If a nearby pizza service delivers pizzas to an oil company, I would have no problem working for that pizza service (because the pizza does not enhance the company’s ability to produce, market and sell fossil fuels). If a company sold laptops or copy paper primarily to fossil fuel companies, even though these tools enhance the customer’s office productivity, these products are not specialized enough to require that the company selling them customize them significantly for the client. I would have no problem with that. On the other hand, if the primary client for a web design studio were fossil fuel companies, that might pose a conflict because web design is a specialized creative service which typically requires custom work for each specific client. Also, to the extent that web design can be used to help market things online, a web designer may be unwittingly helping a fossil fuel company to persuade customers to purchase additional carbon-intensive goods or services.
- I would be able to work for a business unit within a larger company whose primary function is producing or marketing green energy. If the larger company shows a substantial and verifiable commitment to reducing the use of fossil fuels and encouraging green solutions over fossil fuels, I would be able to work for an energy company even if some of its portfolio consists of fossil fuels.
I try to be flexible about job opportunities and recognize that in the real world the issues are not always black and white. Also, if you feel that a job opportunity deserves my consideration despite not meeting this criteria, feel free to get in touch so we can discuss. However, I feel strongly that stopping the use and production of fossil fuels not only is ethically required, it also makes good business sense.
For more information about why I have adopted these principles, I was strongly influenced by Bill McKibben’s essay, Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.