In Managing the Global Business, Ethics and Dilemma are Intertwined

IMG_7077_edit Dr. Koert Vonkeman, Managing Director of Shell Upstream Indonesia, gave a guest lecture session on Leadership, Ethics, and Managing Diversity at Jakarta Campus (14/11/2017). During the lecture session, Dr. Vonkeman shared his experience in leading a global oil and corporation in his career, especially in managing the operation of Shell Upstream in Indonesia in the past 6 years. Specifically, he shared stories of the ethical dilemma situation that sometimes were faced by Shell as a global brand.

As a global brand, Shell really take care of its image carefully. As a result, everything is said by Shell executives in public would be perceived as an official statement by the corporation. This is why every Shell executive in some certain levels needs to join an intensive public speaking training to prepare the executives in handling media and giving official statement. Dr. Vonkeman shared his experience in China on a conference when he gave a final statement in a speech that, “in the end, the price of gasoline in China needs to follow the market price.” While it seems like a common statement, it then became a headline in most major media in Asia on the following day. As a result, the CEO of Shell himself directly confronted Dr. Vonkeman about the statement he was giving. It was fortunate to him that the CEO had the same opinion on the issue so that he was not going into further trouble.

An interesting case was presented in the session. The case was about the Brent Spar, an oil storage loading buoy operated by Shell in the Brent oilfield in Scotland. In 1991, Shell decided to dispose the gigantic buoy by pulling it to Atlantic and then shrinking it to the deep ocean as it was no longer in use. Shell calculated that this method was the safest option. However, Greenpeace organized a global campaign to oppose this plan, and as it instantly got public attention. As a result, the sales of Shell gasoline in some European country (notably in Germany) was declining. Facing this dilemmatic situation, Shell finally decided to dispose the mega structure on-shore in Norway. Even though this was much more expensive, but Shell considered that public reaction needed to be taken seriously.

IMG_7093_edit Dr. Vonkeman also shared Shell’s effort to provide equality in the workplace. They started to promote women participation in some key positions in the organization. The goal is to put more equal gender representation in the board of directors in the future as they only have one female director now. Shell believed that more equal opportunity will improve the quality of decision making it can make. This lecture at SBM ITB can be considered as Dr. Vonkeman’s farewell lecture as he will move back to the Netherlands starting in December. SBM ITB really appreciate the contribution of Dr. Vonkeman to the school during his tenure as
the managing director in Indonesia, and we wish him the best in his new position.

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