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A ‘pivotal moment’ for Oil & Gas firms as Ukraine crisis shows that big changes can be made quickly

It proves unequivocally that profit does not, and should not, come before values and doing the right thing.

The terrible atrocities that are taking place in Ukraine have increasingly prompted many businesses in the west to review their associations and affiliations with Russia. The decisions made by BP to sell its stake in Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft, by Shell to end all of its joint ventures with the Russian energy company Gazprom, and most recently by Exxon Mobil to exit all of its Russia oil and gas operations shows that huge shifts can be made by even the largest of companies when they are given no choice, and quickly.

These decisions to exit Russian ventures will undoubtedly impact the business, profits and subsequently, its shareholders, but it proves unequivocally that profit does not, and should not, come before values and doing the right thing.

This is likely to be a pivotal moment for the big Oil & Gas firms. It proves that change is possible and presents an opportunity to take stock, review other areas of the business and take a long hard look at where the company is going; whether that path is truly sustainable.

It must be noted that there was clear pressure from the government to initiate these moves at BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil, but it is hoped this will pave the way for more strategic decisions in the future which favour sustainability over profit, that benefit society, people, the planet, and shareholders without the impetus of conflict forcing their hand.

Such change is urgent and necessary, and the recent IPCC report further illustrates the need for businesses to start taking action now. If they don't, soon, they too will be given no choice but to react to the catastrophic consequences of existing on a poisoned planet.

Change is also entirely possible, as we’ve seen with BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil this week, but it will require bold leadership to push against the tide, just as Paul Polman faced when implementing his Sustainable Living Plan at Unilever back in 2010.

At SOI, the tools and technologies exist to help companies like BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil to better understand all the moving parts of their organisation, their partners and their stakeholders, allowing them to make the important, significant, and necessary shifts in their practices, something which is mission critical as we enter this decisive and uncertain decade.

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