What We Can Learn About Oil and Gas From Suzanne West

When you hear the words oil and gas in this town, you can’t help but conjure up visions of boardrooms packed with men and stodgy conventions on environmentalism. This is why it was so refreshing to see a very forward-thinking woman named Suzanne West speaking on the subject at the Women of Influence luncheon on June 5th. 

Suzanne has proven to be a trailblazer as a leader in oil and gas, a sector that isn’t well known for having a female presence at the top. Determined to do things outside of the established approach, she successfully started up four of her own companies in the last 15 years, one of which she just sold for a cool $358 million last year. 

While the sale of Black Shire Energy in 2013 might have seemed like a great opportunity to kick back and enjoy the fruits of her labour, Suzanne had very different plans, which involved looking at Alberta’s biggest industry with a fresh perspective, valuing people and the planet as much as profit. Her latest venture, Imaginea Energy Corp, is investigating more sustainable ways to operate while promoting a collaborative culture in the office. After the luncheon, we asked Suzanne to share her inspiration for adopting this new business model:

Necker Island
Last year Suzanne spent time on Richard Branson’s private island when she attended the Necker Meets Oxford conference, a meeting of exceptional minds who come together to discuss solutions for some of the tricky world issues we face. It was here where conversations on current energy practices being unsustainable and impeding the next handful of generations came up, which left a serious impression. Leaving the island, she was inspired to ask herself what could be done to make energy into less of a problem for future generations and ourselves.  

Back to Mother Nature
The answer to some of those questions she’d been asking herself came about rather by chance when she received a random message from the Pachamama Alliance, something that could have been easily overlooked as junk mail. The e-mail turned out to be an invite to stay with indigenous people in Ecuador for several weeks to learn more about their way of life and it seemed like the universe was trying to tell her something. She decided that she had to go.  

Key Learnings
Spending time with the Kichwa and Achuar people in Ecuador turned out to be a very worthwhile experience as she learned about their special connection to their environment. Here were a few of the top ideas she came away with and how she plans to implement them in her company…

Be Communal
Appreciate the good of the whole over the good of the individual – understanding strength comes from being together, not separate or competing. There are no haves and have nots if everything is being shared.

In the office setting, this means that collaboration will be valued over hyper-competition in the interest of making everyone their best while uncovering new opportunities.

Stay Connected
Live as a partner with the earth, acknowledging that her health is your health – don’t take more than you need and don’t force things into opposition. 

Imaginea will be looking at business from the perspective of “Net Positive Environmental Difference,” which means recognizing harmful effects and putting effort into reducing and limiting those impacts. It goes back to the principle of not taking more than what’s needed while giving the land time to restore itself.

Keep it Simple
Time should be spent on quality things that are important, not worrying about the things that aren’t.

To Suzanne, this means continually finding ways to make a positive difference in the world that support her company’s pillars of planet, people and profit. 

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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