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Updated 2:00 PM November 8, 2006




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  Wege Lecture
Oil company chief executive to discuss sustainability

John Browne, group chief executive of BP, will deliver the sixth annual Peter M. Wege Lecture in Rackham Auditorium at 5:15 p.m. Nov. 14.
(Photo courtesy BP)

Titled "Sustainability: A Practical Agenda," Browne's talk will highlight the relevance of sustainability to business and examine the purpose of business, its role in society and the time scales involved in investments and the development of relationships.

He also will examine the practical ways in which a business can and should contribute to the sustainability of the community in which it operates. The speech will quote practical examples to demonstrate that sustainability is fundamental to business as a way of working, not as a matter of philanthropy or public relations.

Browne, who was voted most admired chief executive officer by Management Today from 1999-2002, has been with BP since 1966, when he joined as a university apprentice. He has served as its group chief executive since December 1998.

Throughout his tenure, Browne worked successfully to build BP's reputation as a "green" company that supported environmentally sound operations. BP has been a front-runner in the petroleum industry's acknowledgment of climate change and its link to carbon-based fuel consumption.

The company's reputation in the United States is not without controversy, however, as investigations are ongoing into a 2005 refinery explosion that killed 15 employees. BP also has been accused of manipulating U.S. crude-oil and gas markets. Large oil spills in March and August were followed by a drastic cut in oil production at Prudhoe Bay due to maintenance problems.

Browne worked his way through the ranks at BP. From 1969-83, he held a variety of exploration and production posts in Anchorage, New York, San Francisco, London and Canada. In 1984 he became group treasurer and chief executive of BP Finance International.

Over the following years he held various executive positions in the Standard Oil Co., BP Exploration, and the British Petroleum Co. PLC. Today he is a member of numerous corporate and collegiate boards and has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from at least a dozen universities.

The Peter M. Wege Lecture features nationally recognized speakers familiar with critical environmental issues. Wege is the retired chair of Steelcase Inc. and has been very active in efforts to restore and protect the environment, specifically the Great Lakes. He is a financial supporter of the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) and his generosity helped establish the Center for Sustainable Systems.

This year's lecture is sponsored by SNRE, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Center for Sustainable Systems.

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