Ask a project team in a consumer goods company to draw a stakeholder map, and they will put the consumer in the middle. A retail team in our own downstream business will do the same. Now ask an upstream development team to create a stakeholder map and they will put the oil company in the center. The company-centric stakeholder model still belongs to the time when an oil company had to communicate its good intentions (“tell me”) and had to demonstrate it was also executing them (“show me”). Our industry adapted well to this company-centric period with, for example, impressive gains in operational excellence and safety performance.
But the world continues to change. Society is more aware than ever of the many challenges it faces, whether it is reducing poverty or illiteracy, improving human rights, or responding to climate change. Society nowadays expects business to take on more responsibility than just operating safely and paying taxes and salaries. Local communities are more vocal in asserting their co-ownership of the mineral resources that oil and gas companies produce by demanding a share in that wealth. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are the global expression of the need for societal actors to team up and address the complex issues that the world has to resolve. In short, we have firmly entered the “join me” world.
The “join me” world demands a different mindset in which business no longer focuses on its priorities but operates in partnership with new societal partners and in which its core business is more aligned with societal priorities. This new external mindset can only be effective if it is supported by a realignment of internal processes and decision-making practices of the company.
The challenge, therefore, is twofold. We need to
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