At Equitable Origin, our goal is to bring about positive change through the pursuit of our mission. As a voluntary standards system, we must maintain the highest level of credibility in order to secure the trust and support of ethical consumers and establish productive relationships with energy developers. To do this, our system must be transparent, technically robust, relevant, up-to-date with the latest scientific knowledge, representative of diverse stakeholder views, and have clear and appropriate governance checks and balances. To ensure that the EO standards and assurance system meet all of these criteria, we have established the following processes, policies, and practices.
The Equitable Origin (EO) Board of Directors is a stakeholder-based body that governs Equitable Origin Inc., a nonprofit organization incorporated in the U.S. Its primary responsibility is to ensure that the goals and activities of EO support and advance the mission of the organization.
The Board of Directors is comprised of up to 15 Directors, which are elected to terms of three years, which may be renewed once consecutively. Each Director represents one of the three following stakeholder groups:
- Non-Profit Directors: Directors who are affiliated with non-profit organizations, including non-governmental organizations, seeking changes in energy development practices, the use of energy in the supply chain, or the reduction in the consumption of certain types of energy for reasons associated with climate change and/or the need for renewable sources of energy
- Industry Directors: Directors who are affiliated in a professional capacity with the energy industry or are affiliated with companies using energy in the manufacturing and distribution of their final consumer products, or are affiliated with energy utilities companies
- Independent Directors: Directors who are not directly affiliated in any capacity with any corporation, non-governmental organization linked to, or focused on, energy production, or any form of business entity involved with the energy industry
The EO Board also includes one Management Director acting as a representative of the Senior Management Team to serve with voice, but not vote, in all decisions of the Board.
In addition to its aforementioned responsibilities, the Board of Directors is the custodian of Equitable Origin standards and is responsible for their development and communication, as well as for the design and implementation of EO's assurance and certification procedures. The Board is also responsible for enforcing EO's Policy on Association.
The Board makes material decisions and approvals through a "super-majority" vote, which requires that a majority of the three stakeholder groups approve critical decisions and guarantees that no one stakeholder group can be overruled by a simple majority of the board.
The Advisory Council, a collection of professionals with expertise in energy development impacts, standards setting, and certification, provides the EO management and Board of Directors with advice and feedback.
The Standards Technical Committee's primary function is to provide expert technical guidance to the Board of Directors on Equitable Origin standards and certification processes.
The Assurance Oversight Committee’s primary function is to oversee Equitable Origin’s assurance processes, including auditor approval and site certification.
Regional Stakeholder Councils provide local representation in countries and regions where energy developers have expressed interest in certification under the EO100™ Standard, are in the process of implementing the EO100™ Standard, or have achieved certification under the Standard.
Equitable Origin is a stakeholder-based system and our commitment to continuous consultation with communities, civil society, international NGOs, government agencies and businesses informs everything we do.
Equitable Origin’s EO100™ Standard for Responsible Energy Development was conceived and developed with stakeholders engaged in decision making from its inception in February 2009 to its launch in 2012. Consultation with diverse stakeholders will continue to be an integral component of all revisions and updates to the Standard.
The first ‘consultation draft’ of the EO100™ Standard was developed by Equitable Origin, in collaboration with four Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, environmental and development NGOs, oil and gas companies and service providers, and local government agencies in the Amazon basin. Technical support was provided by consultants from The Dragonfly Initiative, One World Standards and Colibri Consulting. The EO100™ Standard ‘consultation draft’ was made publicly available in December 2009 and, along with subsequent versions of the standard, was used in consultations with stakeholders through a series of workshops, a public comment period, international consultations, and a formal Consultation Committee and Reference Group.
Engagement of NGOs, development finance institutions, academics, and standard-setting bodies began in 2010. We held workshops in major cities in the Latin American region, including Lima, Quito and Bogotá. EO also introduced the EO100™ Standard to industry specialists at presentations in Washington D.C., Paris and Manaus, Brazil. We sought the advice of international NGOs including The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International, the International Union of Conservation for Nature, and the Rainforest Foundation.
Equitable Origin held a public comment period from June to November 2010 and launched an online public consultation tool and tutorial to capture comments and suggestions. We collected, analyzed and recorded over 1,300 comments from communities and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, industry, academia, NGOs, and governments. Equitable Origin staff responded to all of those who had submitted comments to explain how their contributions would be treated. These comments from the public, along with feedback from consultation workshops, were incorporated into a revised version of the EO100™ Standard that was made public in November 2010.
In February 2011, a formal Consultation Committee was formed with representatives from four stakeholder groups: energy producers and industry service providers, government agencies, local and indigenous communities, and environmental and development NGOs and academics. To communicate the deliberations of the Consultation Committee and to provide a conduit for feedback, an open-to-all Reference Group was established. The Consultation Committee provided recommendations for revisions to the draft Standard throughout 2011. The final version of the EO100™ Standard was approved by the Board and published in February 2012.
Independent, third-party verification that energy developers comply with the EO100™ Standard for Responsible Energy Development is a fundamental component of our system. Equitable Origin maintains a roster of independent Assessment Bodies that are required to undergo an approval process in conformance with the principles of the ISEAL Assurance Code, in order to ensure their competency to carry out conformity assessments for Equitable Origin’s standards. Equitable Origin's robust framework for independent assurance provides credible recognition of best practices established in the EO100™ Standard and supports the achievement of positive impacts.
We invest in business practices and processes that continually improve our performance as an international standard-setting organization. We developed our operational system and conduct assurance activities in alignment with the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice. We also support and abide by ISEAL Credibility Principles.
Our goal is to catalyze positive change by improving the practices of energy developers. Not all companies share this commitment to continual improvement, however. Before working with an energy development company, therefore, we complete a thorough due diligence process to determine whether the company has breached any of our policies related to environmental, social and governance practices. Equitable Origin will disassociate with any organization that is linked with activities that we believe are unacceptable corporate behavior. A decision to disassociate with an organization is made by the Equitable Origin Board of Directors. Details are available in our full policy document, EOP-103 EO Policy on Association.
Ultimately, the measure of our success is evidence of the positive change our system makes to protect the environment and generate social and economic benefits for local communities. We have established monitoring and measurement programs supported by baseline assessments according to best industry practices, including those recommended by the ISEAL Alliance. In the future, we will publish an Annual report that details our performance. A full description can be found here.
When fully implemented, the EO System will contribute to more accurate pricing of fuel and electricity by monetizing currently unaccounted-for social and environmental externalities. This value-creation aspect imposes on us a welcome obligation to have an equally effective means of value distribution back to the communities most directly affected by energy development activities. The Equitable Origin Board of Directors is charged with managing this distribution using various community or investment vehicles.
We require that energy developers with sites certified to the EO100™ Standard for Responsible Energy Development communicate which sites have been certified. Our guidelines for use of our certification logo stipulate clearly that operators can only claim Equitable Origin endorsement of their practices for the individual sites that are certified and must not in any way use language in their marketing material to imply that any other site, function or department is certified under the EO100™ Standard. Certified energy development site names, their performance scores, and certification statuses are available to the public on the list of certified sites page. We have specified in EOP105 Equitable Origin Trademark Use the rules operators of certified sites must follow to promote their certification status in their corporate communications.
In December 2017, Equitable Origin decided to suspend voluntarily our membership in the ISEAL Alliance. ISEAL is a membership organization of sustainability standards. A number of reasons factored into this decision:
The standards landscape has evolved dramatically in the last decade.
- Standards and certification systems are currently undergoing many changes and are evolving to adapt to shifting sustainability priorities and practices. Voluntary standards are increasingly focusing on capacity building and continuous improvement.
- EO does not currently have any active certifications under the standard which is a membership requirement for ISEAL. We have found that the value of the EO100™ Standard is less in its being a certification tool, and more in its being a negotiation and risk-management tool.
EO is more than just a standard-setting organization.
- We partner with business, communities and government to enable transparent, sustainable and equitable development.
- Our recent projects have focused on working with indigenous communities in the Amazon region to build their capacity to determine whether and how their resources are developed.
- We are running a nation-wide training program in Mexico through local universities on social and environmental impact assessment methodology.
- We are working with government agencies to evaluate and improve their transparency and oversight mechanisms to incentivize implementation of best management practices in the energy sector.
- EO has developed an integrated platform for companies, investors, and project developers that enables a stepwise approach to environmental and social performance management, measurement, and assurance. The platform facilitates integration of multiple standards, customizable reporting and data management, and incremental levels of verification. It also allows EO to streamline its assurance, monitoring and evaluation functions.
We recognize and adapt to the needs of our stakeholders.
- We are listening to our stakeholders and are hearing that companies are looking for solutions, not rules. We have adapted our system to focus on using the EO100™ Standard for Responsible Energy Development as a management framework and benchmarking tool to evaluate and drive best practices in the private sector.
- Similarly, communities are looking for opportunities to develop their skills, enhance their knowledge, and build their capacity to understand and manage the risks and impacts of large-scale energy and extractives projects affecting their lands.
As ISEAL is undergoing a strategic review of its own approach to membership to ensure future relevance, influence and impact of ISEAL’s work, we hope that we can renew our membership in the future. In the meantime, our work on Free, Prior and Informed Consent, supported by the ISEAL Innovation Fund grant, will continue.
We greatly value ISEAL’s role as building a community of learning and a platform for collaboration and innovation among sustainability standards systems. Our membership has helped us to build a world class standard and assurance system and we hope to continue to be a part of, and contribute to, this community.