One possible future for oil companies
July 2019—Organizations aren’t people (despite Citizens United) but they fight to stay alive just the same. The first corporate charters were time-limited but no more. That’s why it’s so important to help companies tied to fossil fuels and other unsustainable practices to reimagine how their core competencies could be redeployed to make the world better instead of worse.
I had to deal with this when consulting with a natural gas company. Top management was nervous about teaching employees about sustainability because they worried they’d be depressed about the work they do. But here’s the secret: they already knew. Many came to work everyday with subliminal misgivings. So we helped them imagine what their real assets were and how they could over time transform their company to align with sustainability principles. They realized they didn’t even own the natural gas. Their real assets were pipes to and relationships with most of the households. Maybe they could eventually provide hydrogen to households and lease them fuel cells which could provide electricity and hot, super-clean water! Or they could ramp up biogas. As we talked about these options, the energy in the room transformed from Eeyore to excitement. They were bubbling with ideas, both near term and long term.
It appears that Shell is having a similar ah-ha moment. They’re leveraging their experience with deep water drilling to go after jobs to install off-shore wind farms.