The World Petroleum Congress in 2000 was the first to integrate the concept of sustainability throughout its event, instead of relegating it to a side position. The theme of the 17th Congress made that very clear: 'The Petroleum Industry: Excellence and Responsibility in Serving Society'.
The Organising Committee for Rio came up with a whole range of projects and activities to serve society with the event itself, leaving a legacy that would not cost the earth and enriching the experience of participants as well as the local community. NGOs joined the high-level speakers on the platform of the largest oil and gas congress worldwide and provided a balanced view of the petroleum industry's effect and involvement in society and the environment, with environmental groups such as Greenpeace, Conservation International and the World Wildlife Fund invited to join the meetings.
The 17th WPCThe 17th WPC dedicated a special area to presenting social and environmental action programs and projects. The Social Responsibility Arena, an unprecedented event for the triennial congress, brought together some 30 governmental, nongovernmental and business organizations, including the Brazilian Nature Conservation Foundation, which supports public and private initiatives for conservation through environmental education, the International Conservation Institute of Brazil, which aims to protect biodiversity and ecosystems in Brazil and in 30 other countries, and the Pro-Natura Institute which encourages social and technological innovations for sustainable development through community and environment projects. The United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) was another participant, as well as The Blue Wave Movement Foundation, known in Portuguese as OndAzul. Created in 1990 by the composer Gilberto Gil, the foundation manages more than 15 social and environmental projects with the main focus on the defence of water resources and associated ecosystems.
The Congress also took responsibility for the waste it generated. Event organizers estimated that, together, the congress and the accompanying Rio Oil & Gas Expo 2002 generated a total of 16 metric tons of recyclable waste - plastic, aluminum, paper and glass. Official suppliers of the congress materials were given strict environmental guidelines resulting in the use of recycled paper note pads and a vegetal leather kit, which is made of natural materials from Brazilian rubber trees. Recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and PBT materials were used to make furniture for the event as well as the uniform t-shirts carried by the staff and volunteers of the Congress. Recycling also extended to the 32,000m2 exhibition, the largest ever in South America, where the new carpets and new stands built specifically for the 16th WPC were recycled after the event. All the proceeds of the various recycling activities were then passed on to a residents' co-operative with 6,000 inhabitants located in the port area of Rio de Janeiro.
But the sustainability efforts did not stop there and an army of 250 volunteers collected 36 tons of garbage in 10 days in a special community effort to clean up the Corcovado area before the Congress, donating all proceeds to the garbage collectors, some of the poorest inhabitants of Rio. The Finlândia Public School also received a new lick of paint from the volunteers of the Congress.
With 10,000 professionals involved in the organization of the 17th World Petroleum Congress, and about R$100 million (U$35 million) in resources revenue received by the city, the Congress managed to leave a lasting impact on Rio de Janeiro's communities and business tourism sector.
The surplus funds for the Congress of US$2m were used to set up the WPC Educational Fund in Brazil, which was further increased in 2005 with tax initiatives added by the Brazilian government.