Sometimes Shell’s actions are so extraordinary that you wonder if the announcements that they make are a wind up – thrown into the ether just to see what might happen. The withdrawal from the “London Array” wind farm project is just such a decision. I know nothing about the business plan for this project except that I doubt that there were any “unknowns” which have suddenly become “knowns”. Indeed Shell’s statement that the decision is a consequence of an "ongoing review of projects and investment choices" suggests that they just went off the idea – as they have with so many other non traditional business ventures over the years. Shell’s definition of their “core business” becomes narrower and narrower over the years – step-outs into Renewables being walked away from with the same disregard for their reputation for veracity as many of the previous wimp outs.
As an ex-employee, pensioner and small shareholder I have consistently argued that unless Shell is really prepared to diversify into alternative energy wholeheartedly then they really shouldn’t bother at all. The track record of management success at anything but the oil and gas business is deplorable – so why bother? But as a commentator on brand and reputation management I find Shell’s mismatch between rhetoric and reality a continuing and monstrous disgrace. Remember the “Say No to no” ad shown here? I thought when it was launched a few months ago that it was deceitful, self congratulatory and facile. The wind farm decision is sadly not the only example which proves my point – what is Shell doing but saying “Yes to no” with this walk away from wind energy? But it gets worse.
The latest so-called “Shell brand campaign” featuring the disingenuous “Clearing the Air” campaign about which I have written before on this Blog is apparently a new initiative designed to communicate “What Shell stands for” - the campaign material states what this is:
SO WHAT DOES SHELL STAND FOR?
We are positive about energy
We are anti-complacent
We are creative, persistent problem solvers
So let’s take a look at the withdrawal from the wind farm project about which Shell UK Chairman James Smith boasted less than eighteen months ago: "The London Array offshore wind farm will make a crucial contribution to the UK's renewable energy targets. " Is this withdrawal being “Positive about energy”? Isn’t the abandonment of the project so precipitously extremely “complacent”? Can’t Shell be seen not as “creative, persistent problem solvers” but as mendacious knee-jerkers who when they encounter the unknown or the uncertain they run like hell for cover?
As I have said before I don’t really mind what Shell does as long as it is legal and in the interests of their stakeholders. What I vehemently object to is when they fail to walk the talk. When they promulgate bullshit in their brand campaigns about innovation and creativity when the reality of their business decision-making is anything but creative, original or innovative. It’s not the most elegant phrase to use but it seems appropriate – come on Shell “Cut the crap”.
© Paddy Briggs