Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
It may be hard for some of us to imagine it, but 25 years ago, there was no Facebook and no Google. The first smart phone had only just appeared on the market. Amazon and the EuroTunnel were only 2 years old, and the International Space Station had not yet been launched into orbit around our planet.
Into that world of yesterday, the AMCHAM T&T HSSE Conference was born. Twenty-five years later, this Conference continues to champion Health, Safety, Security and Environment, the professional disciplines now globally recognized as core to the operations of every company. One could even go as far as to describe HSSE as a key pillar in our society, our economy and our country.
I am therefore honoured to be here on behalf of Atlantic and all the other sponsors of this year’s Conference, as we partner with AMCHAM T&T once again to stage this signature event.
We commend the Chamber for its vision and foresight, and we join AMCHAM in commemorating this year’s Conference as a jubilee celebration. It has been 25 years of tenacious and inspiring advocacy. Your work has reaped many benefits, helping to preserve people’s lives and create a safe environment for them to unleash their potential.
Today, HSSE sits prominently on the local and regional business agenda, due in no small part to the work of the Chamber and all the companies and practitioners who have partnered with your vision, at every stage of this 25-year journey. AMCHAM T&T, we applaud you for your commitment and your tireless efforts, and we continue to partner with your team as you work to promote excellence and innovation in HSSE.
The theme of this year’s Conference is “Learn, Evolve, Thrive,” a theme I believe we could all agree is very relevant to the status quo.
The global pandemic is still with us and continues to teach us that the human species is resilient and adaptable. In the face of regrettable loss of life, economic hardship and other areas of radical change, we have all shouldered grief, discomfort and inconvenience, and we have endured.
We join the international appeal for everyone to get vaccinated so that the recovery process can be accelerated. As the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ms. Amina Mohammed has said, and I quote: “No person is safe until all are safe, and no country is safe until all countries are safe. Only by working together can we ensure that no one is left behind.”
Atlantic supports this call for a collaborative and united approach, locally and globally. Thanks to the global vaccination effort, protection protocols are now being eased or lifted around the world, and commerce and industry are slowly re-emerging into a new reality. And while it is true that collaboration will be instrumental to success, it is also true that in this new landscape, competitive forces have become more intense than ever.
This Conference is one opportunity to assemble leaders, professionals and other stakeholders so that together we can discover solutions to these forces and other factors that may impact HSSE.
The theme of this year’s Conference is therefore very on point and identifies three interdependent strategies that I believe point a way for us to navigate the challenges of the present and the future.
The first strategy is “Learn”, a word that brings to mind companies that describe themselves as learning organizations. As the various business writers from Harvard and elsewhere have identified: a learning organization is skilled at creating, acquiring, transferring and implementing knowledge, and true organizational learning is not a company initiative; it is a company culture.
At the heart of such a culture is a heavy emphasis on learning and development and research and development. To put this in perspective: last year, the Chinese government invested some 372 billion US dollars in research and development. For fiscal year 2022, the US government has earmarked a research and development budget of some 171 billion US dollars. These gargantuan numbers say it all. These countries know that investment in research and development lays the foundation for future breakthroughs which over time yield new business opportunities, new jobs and new exports.
This is very instructive for Trinidad and Tobago. We too should prioritize learning, research and development in a new national culture of learning. Government initiatives such as the proposed research and development capital allowance are welcome. This can help spur our innate capacity for innovation. As a country, we already have 2 inventions under our belt – the steelpan and the G-pan. As Professor Brian Copeland, UWI Principal and inventor of the G-Pan has said recently, the expertise is all here. The critical need of the hour is that we build support systems and public sector/private sector partnerships that help our local experts and students bring viable ideas to the new marketplace.
At Atlantic, our own culture of Continuous Learning is being built through a suite of initiatives focused on deepening the knowledge of our people and helping them access the skills of the future. In addition to creating in-house and external training opportunities, we facilitate inter- department and cross-functional job rotations and have also arranged special exchange assignments with peers in the global industry.
From a HSSE perspective, our Learning from Incidents initiative aims to ensure that Atlantic captures lessons from personal safety and process safety incidents that occur in ours and oftentimes other’s operations. This data is entered and regularly accessed when on-site jobs are being planned or permitted. This initiative positions us to be more proactive in our prevention of repeat incidents and helps underpin the strong performance of our risk management system.
I’ll turn now to the second strategy in the Conference theme: “Evolve”. Some of us will remember Darwin’s theory that when an environment changes, the traits that enhance survival in that environment will also gradually change and evolve. Case in point: our own immediate everyday circumstances due to the pandemic. What are the survival traits that must change, as a result?
In addition to our individual and corporate pandemic response, as a country with an energy economy, we must continue to take a macro-view and pay close attention to the changes underway in the wider context of the Global Energy Transition. This refers to the transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based fuels to new sources of renewable energy. As the cleanest fossil fuel, LNG will play a key role in this transition. In fact, global demand for LNG is forecast to increase by 200% over the next twenty years. This means that Trinidad and Tobago’s LNG business must continue to evolve to remain competitive and relevant.
None of this has escaped Atlantic’s attention. Domestic gas supply shortfall continues to be a challenge and is not projected to return to normalcy before the latter half of this decade. In response, we have implemented several strategies to increase our energy efficiency and enhance our facility’s reliability and availability. We have achieved a great measure of success with such initiatives as Reducing our Ship Load Flaring; and we capitalize on the Spinning Reserve of our Power Turbine Generators. These projects and others are strategic linchpins in our drive to future-proof our business. We will also continue to work with all our peers and all stakeholders in the local energy sector to develop additional carbon abatement strategies that fortify Trinidadand Tobago’s status in global energy.
The third strategy in the Conference theme is “Thrive”. On one hand, it is the outcome of implementing the first two strategies: if we learn and evolve, we thrive.
But on the other hand, Thrive highlights the strategic mentality that the new landscape requires. According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, a growth mindset thrives on challenge and turns opportunities into springboards for growth and for stretching our abilities. The people of Trinidad and Tobago must continue to embrace this mindset. We must choose to be victors not victims of our circumstances and have faith in our innate potential.
This becomes pertinent when we consider the impact that the pandemic has had on many of us and our mindsets. To say it more broadly, the pandemic has had impact on our mental health. Prior to COVID, the world was already facing a mental ill health epidemic. The professionals say that 1 in 4 persons is likely to experience a mental health issue over the course of their lives. COVID has only made the situation worse. Some of the impact has been insidious, including reduced social interaction; anxiety about job security; feelings of helplessness and isolation, to name a few. The medical fraternity has already reported a rise in mental ill health cases.
The new world requires that leaders - if we have not already done so - we must now care for the holistic well-being of our employees: body, mind and soul. Throughout 2020, Atlantic deepened the offerings of our wellness programme and added a mental health component that was even more robust. In addition to 24-7 access to EAP services, our employees attended regular awareness sessions led by our Occupational Health Team. These sessions have not only shared several ways to promote mental well-being and resilience but have also made inroads in reducing the stigma associated with mental health.
With many of our employees now working from home, we also deployed virtual-based wellness programs that encourage camaraderie, including virtual walks, virtual aerobics and virtual cooking competitions.
When leaders care genuinely about the health and wellbeing of their people, business outcomes and HSSE performance are improved. Employees are more engaged and there is high productivity. In the new context, one source of our competitive advantage will come from how well we support our employees and our people to believe in their ability to achieve.
So, in closing, I would like to encourage everyone to become even more conversant with these three strategies over the next three days of this Conference: “Learn, Evolve, Thrive”. Some of the brightest and the best in the world of HSSE will be sharing the latest best practices, something from which we will all derive benefit.
AMCHAM T&T, thank you for your diligent coordination and for continuing to be a champion in this area. We look forward to another successful Conference.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.
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