Biodiversity and ecosystem services

ExxonMobil faces the challenge of operating in a variety of ecosystems with sensitive characteristics.

Report Oct. 24, 2018

In this article

Biodiversity and ecosystem services
blue-footed king bird of paradise
Photo — The blue-footed king bird of paradise is one of the many species that live in Papua New Guinea.

Managing biodiversity

We believe that healthy ecosystems can go hand in hand with economic development through careful community and corporate management of natural resources. Protect Tomorrow. Today. is ExxonMobil’s commitment to being mindful of the planet and future generations in business actions undertaken today. Our approach to managing biodiversity and ecosystem services recognizes several factors, including the rarity of individual species, their roles in different ecosystems and habitats, their vulnerabilities and their cultural significance. We implement scientifically sound, practical and sustainable solutions rooted in environmental assessment and risk management. To protect particular species and sensitive habitats, we take steps such as modifying engineering design, employing construction and operating practices, and enhancing wildlife habitats at our properties.

Performance and initiatives

We periodically screen the locations of our major operating facilities against databases of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and World Protected Areas. In 2017, an estimated 26 percent of our major operating facilities were within 5 kilometers of designated environmentally sensitive areas. In addition to our commitment to protecting biodiversity in our operating areas, we support advocacy, research and partnerships to protect biodiversity outside our fencelines. In 2017, we contributed approximately $3 million to organizations focused on biodiversity protection and land conservation.

Spotlight

Protecting the endangered western gray whale

ExxonMobil is committed to protecting biodiversity everywhere we operate. This means assessing the environmental context of the area, understanding the ecosystem risks and applying location-specific solutions. When working in areas with endangered species, we participate in a thorough due diligence process to ensure our projects are managed safely and responsibly.

In 2017, our team developed and employed enhanced mitigation technologies such as infrared cameras and real-time acoustics to help protect western gray whales during sealift operations off Sakhalin Island, Russia. These sealift operations involved barges carrying modules designed to boost production. Large in size, these modules require careful operational planning, including assessing and mitigating effects on the environment.

The western gray whale is a population classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Our mitigation strategy was based on more than 15 years of research on the western gray whale and its habitat. Infrared cameras were used to improve whale sightings at night and real-time acoustic measurements were conducted to provide awareness about the acoustic environment and to identify and address any unanticipated sound levels. Our understanding of the local ecosystem coupled with the use of these technologies helps us minimize the risk of interaction between our operations and the whales. In 2017, we successfully delivered seven barges as part of our sealift operations with no incidents.

Land management

As part of our effort to safeguard biodiversity, we seek opportunities to enhance wildlife habitats and provide environmental education to local communities. ExxonMobil supports land management programs that help promote environmental awareness, biodiversity and science initiatives in our workforce and in local communities.

ExxonMobil manages land for the benefit of wildlife, which includes assessing habitats, developing plans to enhance or sustain wildlife and monitoring the status of our sites through certified programs. As an example, we collaborate with the Wildlife Habitat Council to manage land for the benefit of wildlife, while also developing educational and outreach programs. 

Performance and initiatives

We continue to collaborate with the Wildlife Habitat Council to enhance wildlife habitat and provide conservation education opportunities on company-owned lands. These conservation certification programs span across 16 sites around the world, including forests, wetlands and grasslands. Management activities include native seed collection and banking, pollinator gardens and other activities to promote sustainable wildlife habitat. Our outreach programs include community tree plantings and biological field data collection in collaboration with local high schools, universities and education programs.

One of our newest programs to achieve conservation certification includes Joliet Refinery’s 146-acre property on Bluff Road in Illinois. Our Bluff Road program has four habitat projects certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council, including wetlands and grasslands. The grasslands project aims to restore two remnant prairies impacted by the invasive buckthorn tree. Volunteers have committed significant time and effort to perform species inventory surveys, remove invasive buckthorn and reseed targeted areas with native vegetation. The program draws upon local expertise and community partners such as the Midewin National Tall Grass Prairie to align with regional habitat goals.

Photo — The ExxonMobil refinery in Joliet, Illinois has four habitat projects certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council.

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