Working responsibly


Global awareness of biodiversity has increased dramatically in recent years. As a result, there is more understanding of the many issues that threaten it.

This places a greater onus on businesses like Cairn to recognise the impact that our activities may have on biodiversity, and to commit to protecting it in the regions in which we operate.

Biodiversity framework and guidance

Oil and gas exploration and development activities have the potential to affect biodiversity both on land and in the marine environment. Our commitments and principles related to biodiversity are laid out in our Business Principles and our Environment Policy. For example, Cairn does not explore, develop or enter into joint ventures in UNESCO World Heritage sites. Moreover, we take a precautionary approach, believing that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, even where such damage is not scientifically certain, cost-effective damage-prevention measures should still be taken.

We take our responsibilities very seriously for all operations that may affect critical habitats, protected areas and/or the welfare of local communities relying on ecosystem services. We undertake extensive due diligence of potential biodiversity impacts, and engage with relevant technical specialists, government departments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), along with local stakeholders. Such dialogue helps us by guiding our subsequent mitigation activities.

Cairn assesses potential biodiversity impacts early on and at all stages of project development, from asset acquisition through to decommissioning. We assess direct impacts as well as the potential cumulative and indirect impacts of operations on biodiversity, and we consider these impacts in the wider context (i.e. beyond the immediate physical footprint of the asset). This entails an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and includes consideration of the supply chain for primary products. Any project in which significant potential impacts to biodiversity are identified undergoes additional studies and a formal assessment. These will demonstrate how potential impacts have been managed.

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We develop asset and site-specific Environmental and Social Management Plans that integrate biodiversity. Cairn also develops Biodiversity Action Plans where there is a significant risk to biodiversity or a measurable benefit for targeted biodiversity conservation action(s). Cairn ensures appropriate resources and expertise to manage biodiversity risks and impacts, and commissions external specialists as necessary.

When identifying, assessing and managing biodiversity risks and impacts, we follow the requirements outlined in the International Finance Corporation’s Performance Standard 6 (Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources), and other internationally accepted good industry practice.

Our Biodiversity Framework sets out a common approach, with processes and deliverables that apply to all Cairn’s business and operations. The framework is owned and governed by the highest level of management within Cairn, and implemented locally in accordance with our Project Delivery Process (PDP) (see Major accident prevention and safety).

In 2016, the revised IPIECA-IOGP guidance on biodiversity was produced and this is being considered as part of the revision of our own guidance, which is ongoing. This includes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (BES) and is acknowledged by the UN Global Compact (UNGC) and by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in their publications.

Impact assessments


Phase two appraisal and exploration drilling was completed in Senegal in 2016 and Cairn commenced planning for phase three in Q2 2016. To do so we again revisited our Sangomar Deep ESIA and developed a further addendum to take into account changed rig and other significant developments in this next phase. At the same time, we reported our phase two performance to the Senegal regulator, as agreed with them, without significant issue or incident.

Our consultation continued with key stakeholders and the Senegal National Technical Committee (NTC) was convened in November 2016 to review the phase three ESIA addendum. Minor modifications were identified and incorporated to ensure the revised Environmental and Social Management Plan for phase three incorporated required changes and improvements. The NTC also considered the Project Risk Study, the supporting dossier for classified installations and Plan of Internal Operations, which were also revised for the new programme.

Mitigation measures were implemented as part of the amended ESIA. We revised all associated operational documentation, including the Corporate Responsibility (CR) Plan, Waste Management Plan and base operating manual.

Other Senegal activities

In 2016, we commenced planning activities for potential drilling on our Rufisque and Sangomar Offshore blocks. Rufisque block in particular has areas that present different environmental challenges, most notably the shallower water and proximity to the mainland. This gives potential for different environmental habitats and interaction with communities, not least local artisanal fishermen.

Planning was completed for environmental baseline survey work over these blocks in order to ensure representative sampling and analysis could be conducted and the results fed into a new ESIA for any works in these blocks. This sampling is planned for 2017, along with ESIA development.

In addition, early works commenced to support conceptual development activities in the event that the appraisal work is sufficiently strong to allow commerciality to be declared. This work will likewise include baseline and ESIA studies to ensure submissions can be made in a timely manner.

Objective 2017

  • We will conduct a baseline survey for our Senegal unexplored offshore blocks and develop an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA)

Strategic objectives

  • Maintain licence to operate

Principal risks

  • Health, safety, environmental and security incidents
  • Operational and project performance
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