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Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the February issue of E&P Plus.
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In December 2020, I had the chance to interview Adam Anderson, CEO of Innovex Downhole Solutions. That was shortly after he became somewhat of a viral sensation among oil and gas professionals for a letter he wrote to the CEO of VF Corp., the company behind the popular outdoor apparel brand The North Face.

Anderson wasn’t happy that his order for 400 jackets with his company logo was declined because The North Face said it wouldn’t put an oil and gas company logo on its co-branded products. It was a curious stance considering the company makes its money by selling products made from nylon, a petroleum-based product.

Fed up, Anderson pointed out a number of facts and misrepresented truths in the decision, and his story was covered by KOSA-TV in Midland-Odessa, Texas, sparking an uproar by members and supporters of the industry, including U.S. representative Dan Crenshaw.

When I talked to Anderson, his frustration extended beyond The North Face. He was dismayed by our own industry’s willingness to accept criticism of its existence, when in fact oil and gas have contributed countless benefits to the development of our modern society and will only continue to do so.

“I guess everyone gets themselves wound up in the ESG world and wants to apologize for what we do,” he told me. “It’s a problem. Leaders in our industry have become focused on this idea of what we do is a ‘necessary evil.’”

I can’t really say it better than that. We are living firmly in an anti-fossil fuel narrative that figures to only grow under the current makeup of Congress and the Biden administration. There’s no doubt that the worst thing oil and gas executives can do right now is continue to deny the industry has issues with emissions, diversity and community relations. But what the industry also can’t do is allow the narrative to be owned by others.

During Hart Energy’s recent virtual Executive Oil Conference, I chatted with Anton Rushakov, senior consultant with Global Affairs Associates, which specializes in ESG reporting and messaging. We talked about the idea that producers in the Permian Basin, in particular, have a real chance to take the lead in showing the world the tremendous progress the industry has made on flaring, carbon capture and more.

You’ll get tired of hearing me talk about ESG through 2021 I’m sure, but understand it’s not a fleeting trend. Your livelihood and those who work for and with you will depend on mastering it.

But back to Anderson’s point. It’s not only about ESG these days. It’s vital that the industry show its worth to the future of society, to be part of it and continue to be a leader of modern development.

Anderson was informed by his distributor at the time of his denial by The North Face that the company lumped oil and gas in with tobacco companies and pornographers as companies it wouldn’t want to use in co-branding. Do we really want the world to think of petroleum products like that? Of course not.

I know, you know and many out there know that oil and natural gas have ushered people out of poverty, led to the industrial revolution, made our society more mobile, helped feed the poor and treat the sick, and more.

The problem is there are many more who do not know. The only way they ever will is if industry leaders get together and start speaking up for themselves. 

Read the full interview with Adam Anderson, CEO of Innovex Downhole Solutions, here.