The global climate summit in Paris in early December forged a landmark agreement, one that may finally and categorically re-set the course for the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy in a bid to arrest global warming. And one that poses a conundrum for many businesses.
As representatives of the maritime, offshore and energy sectors, we should be mindful of the signal COP 21 sends to our markets – oil is quickly becoming the unpopular kid at school… and it’s not just the really cool kids saying so.
Businesses and consumers are more savvy and proactive, while governments are advocating more ambitious clean energy goals, and a push back against fossil fuels has gained momentum, particularly in Europe. This will only intensify.
Indeed, anecdotal though it may be, just today one of our clients sent a circular denouncing an oil major’s carbon record and plans. We should all consider what COP 21 means for our businesses and clients – both large and small – as fossil fuel will increasingly be viewed as the problem and not the solution, while for some is will be considered the enemy of humanity. For businesses it is important to gauge sentiment and adapt one’s approach accordingly.
The oil majors have invested in brand building around gas and renewables. However recent reports suggest that they are conceding to the facts about what they really are – big oil companies. Oil companies now talk less about renewables and more about efficiency and reducing carbon emissions as both market opportunities and market-based solutions to growing demand and the climate change reality.
In June this year, European oil companies BP, Statoil, ENI, BG Group, Shell, and Total wrote an open letter calling for carbon pricing to be on the table in Paris.
Certainly at BLUE, when providing advice and counsel we must be increasingly mindful that we are managing reputations amid a new backdrop where marrying a company’s brand with its external reputation within the context of COP 21will need recalibration. For companies that retail or use large amounts of fossil-based products, their business’s brand objectives should have shifted way before COP 21 to factor in that we exist in a century that will see the fossil-based economy disappear. But the hard part will be living up to the brand and business objectives, shifting the focus away from the fossil era. Not so much a case of not selling ice to Eskimos, but selling ice at all.