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Q&A with Total: the first major to adopt contract transparency policy

The French oil company Total becomes one of the first major oil companies to announce that they will advocate for the public disclosure by countries of their petroleum contracts and licenses. By coming out in favour of contract transparency, the company is joining ranks with mining giant Rio Tinto, as well as smaller oil companies Kosmos Energy and Tullow Oil. In a statement, EITI Chair, Fredrik Reinfeldt “welcomed and commended Total’s new policy, as a sign that contract transparency is becoming the norm.” Jean-François Lassalle, EITI Board member and Senior Adviser to the President EP of Total explains the thinking behind the decision below:

Would you briefly explain what led Total to take its position on the disclosure of contracts?

This is a development of the transparency policy that Total has been following for the last 15 or so years. The publication of contracts is a recurrent theme in EITI, and it is something that many States are committed to. So, we decided to revisit the issue and see to what extent we could contribute to meeting this expectation, while respecting the legal requirements of the provisions governing us in each country and competitive balance.

How were you able to meet concerns about confidentiality and commercial sensitivity?

As soon as a State wishes to publish all oil contracts and removes the confidentiality clauses to this effect, it is our view that the legal and commercial issues have been addressed. That is why the decision to publish has to be initiated and implemented by States and not by companies.

What outcomes are you hoping to achieve through this policy?

The goal is to continue to develop every stakeholder’s confidence in our industry. This confidence is a fundamental asset for an organization that makes long-term commitments to substantial investments. It contributes to contractual stability. That is why we think that it is in our interests for States to publish contracts.

Have you noted any national or international impact, with other companies or governments?

It is too early to talk of impact, especially as our action will be indirect, since it consists of supporting States in their processes of publishing all their oil contracts. We will, of course, be delighted if other companies join in with this transparency initiative.