The Image of Energy: Presented by Peter Bennett, CEO and Managing Director at Clough
In this era of technological disruption, the oil and gas industry is at a pivotal moment, and we have an image problem.
We are embracing digital transformation, and we’ve seen a commitment to lower carbon emissions from Governments around the globe, but the world and especially a vocal younger generation, sees the oil and gas industry as part of the problem and not as the industry that makes modern living possible.
Internal perception v external perception
The industry gives itself high marks for innovation, safety and environmental sustainability, and yet the public opinion in these areas is often portrayed very negatively. It is often seen as arrogant and dismissive.
For example, 62 of the 100 biggest oil companies in the world consistently reduced their emissions year after year between 2010 and 2015, with an overall drop of 12 per cent during that period, according to a report from Bloomberg. However, public opinion sees the oil and gas industry as disconnected from this responsibility.
This is the environment where the oil and gas industry is now playing, where public perception is becoming more critical, and younger consumers are growing in both number and political influence. In term, this means that the next generation is avoiding a career in oil and gas like the plague.
Millennials and Gen Zs, those born between 1980 and 1994, make up more than half the world’s population and together account for most of the global workforce. They aren’t the future—they’re the present, and they will become especially vital to the continued relevance of the industry as leaders, employees and consumers.
A 2017 EY survey showed that young people increasingly feel shunted by the industry and their environmental values and 71 per cent of teen respondents believe that renewable fuels such as solar and wind is what will power their generation, while 56 per cent said that oil and gas are the fuels of their parents’ generation. In similar fashion, a recent survey from Deloitte revealed that climate change and protecting the environment is the number one concern for both millennials and GenZs.
The belief that the oil and gas industry is good for society seems to decline with each generation and millennials, and GenZs are more likely to believe the industry is bad for society.
How can we change the perception and ensure we communicate we are part of the solution? A clear vision and a new face for the industry. We need to do more than just rebrand from oil and gas to energy, we need to communicate differently.
What do we need to do?
The energy industry carries the major responsibility for providing energy to the world, but we must work smarter and communicate much more effectively with global communities about the social value we create in the process. We must focus on broader groups of stakeholders and have an open dialogue to understand their motives and communicate our actions in less arrogant tones.
We need open communication; the energy industry needs to communicate and engage with consumers to identify ways to understand their drives and concerns better. Clearly, there is a gap between the public and our view of the industry, and the time to address these perceptions is now. We cannot ignore this public mistrust, as it is driving the youth of today to avoid a career in our industry.
We need to look for collaboration beyond our industry for problem-solving, not keep our problems to ourselves. As we continue to actively pursue technologies to reduce emissions and protect the environments in which we deliver, we must communicate our actions more effectively, correct public misconceptions, and make the community understand that we are part of the solution. We need their support, not their opposition.
We need to market our innovation and agility. Our incredible improvements in energy development through constant innovation as we strive to produce oil and gas with the lowest possible emissions and continue with finding alternatives to oil and gas are virtually unknown outside Industry insiders.
This is a career to deliver the environmental progress sought by the new generations.
We need to re-think the skills we need. How does our skills base need to change? Recruitment is not just a company issue, it’s an entire industry issue. We need to re-skill and up-skill our team members. Our industry must collaborate with educators and government to transform learning and enable individuals to access the skills they need to prepare for the future.
How we shape the future of our workforce is critical. Many industries are looking for the same skill sets, and the younger generation will not hesitate to lessen or end relationships when they disagree with companies’ business practices or their perceived values.
Where from here?
You have seen a lot of technology over the past three days. For us to continue as an industry, we must continue to develop these new technologies. However, we must re-learn how to engage and communicate this with the communities and consumers that will drive us forward.
It’s time to stop talking and start acting. And not one company can do it alone. We can only succeed by having open communication, sharing knowledge, be innovative and agile and working collaborative between government, operators, contractors and the community.
This paper was presented at APPEA May 2019 in Brisbane as part of the plenary “Perceptions of the modern Industry” by Clough CEO and Managing Director, Peter Bennett. Peter is passionate about the topic of how we bring Millennials and Gen Zs to be part of the oil and gas industry, to make them interested in what the industry has to offer and how they can make a difference.