C-Suite Energy Executive Awards Chairman of the Year: Mac Van Wielingen

ARC Resources is a paragon of good corporate citizenship, and that’s a credit to the man who helped found the company and has led it ever since

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Mac Van Wielingen, ARC Resources Chairman
Photographs John Gaucher

At ARC Resources, the company says accountability to shareholders isn’t just a phrase that’s used in press releases, and commitment to community isn’t merely about paying lip service. Instead, they are the integral values that have led to the company’s continued success. “As I look back, from day one we had the same philosophy [that we do now]. From day one, we said to all our employees, ‘Get involved in the community and be visible in the community,’” says Mac Van Wielingen, the chair of ARC Resources’ board of directors.

He’s been there from the beginning, as the acting CEO and chairman of the board when the company was founded in 1996. And throughout it’s been his understanding of ARC’s history, founding principles and direction that has propelled the company forward. Van Wielingen’s approach to board management, both deliberate and forward-looking, is reflected in his measured way of speaking.

“Continuously seeking clarification is a critical piece,” he says. “As chair, I ensure that we’re facilitating all the right conversations to confirm that management is really paying attention to qualitative aspects of culture, trust and ethics. We want to be transparent and we want to be responsible to all of our investors, shareholders, stakeholders and employees.”

For nearly 20 years this commitment to transparency has been a part of the company’s DNA. And lately, it’s added another strain to that code – a commitment to environmental disclosure. In addition to the improvements it’s made to its operational performance in terms of carbon emissions intensity and volume, it’s also made an effort to track and disclose the data around that. As a result, ARC has been included in the Carbon Disclosure Project’s Leadership Index for six years running. In 2014, it received a score of 93 out of a possible 100. In 2013, meanwhile, the company ranked first in the Canadian 200 Carbon Performance Leadership Index.

“We’ve really bought into the model of citizenship as part of our culture. We’re not just hiding away in offices trying to create wealth for ourselves – we truly want to be there to make the communities stronger and better.”

As the energy sector in Canada continues to grow, Van Wielingen says that earning the trust, support and buy-in from the communities that they work in is critical to moving forward with large infrastructure projects. But he believes that earning this trust isn’t about superficial gestures — like the principles that his company started with from day one, it has to be about honesty and transparency. “The energy sector needs to come forward with more progressive understanding and practices regarding the environment. If we were all committed to being accountable, I think we would create a lot more trust in the public and in our communities,” he says.

The company’s credentials when it comes to good governance aren’t limited to its activity on the carbon and climate file. It was named as one of the top companies in Canada in last year’s Globe and Mail rankings of public companies with the best corporate governance practices, receiving full marks for the independence of its directors, audit and compensation committees as well as the disclosure it does around its succession planning process, the education of directors and the evaluation of board member performance.

And ARC is doing what it can to promote the kind of governance that it’s had since day one. In 2013 ARC donated $9.5 million to the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, with the funds earmarked specifically for embedding ethical leadership into the school’s curriculum. The hope is that it will help instill some of ARC’s values into future business leaders. “We’ve really bought into the model of citizenship as part of our culture,” Van Wielingen says. “We’re not just hiding away in offices trying to create wealth for ourselves. We truly want to be there to make the communities stronger and better.”

Required Reading

Mac Van Wielingen knows enough about good corporate governance that he could probably write a book about it. But until then, he recommends “Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” a book that was written by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras and published in 1994. Here are a just a few of the pearls of wisdom it contains.

“Visionary companies are so clear about what they stand for and what they’re trying to achieve that they simply don’t have room for those unwilling or unable to fit their exacting standards.

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”

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