Ringing The Alarm About The Petroleum Situation With Your CEO
October 15, 2008
By Charles Cresson Wood
Frost & Sullivan just completed their inaugural survey called Going Green. It examined senior manager’s perceptions about both current and future environmental/sustainability initiatives within their organizations. The good news is that some 67% of the respondents expect that the rate of green investment over the next year will increase, while 33% believe it will remain unchanged, and 0% believe it will decrease.
The bad news is that senior organizational leaders below the CEO level, such as vice presidents and directors, perceive that going green is more of a growth opportunity than CEO’s do. Some 34% of these senior organizational leaders other than CEOs think that going green is a growth opportunity, but only 23% of CEOs see things that way. Although the study did not provide numbers supporting it, my personal experience is that the rank-and-file in many organizations understands what’s really happening in the petroleum area, but CEOs do not. As the study indicated, the predominant objection that CEOs use to block the approval of green initiatives is, not surprisingly, cost.
CEOs are of course very busy, and most don’t have the time or the inclination to study environmental problems such as peak oil, global warming, and the country’s dependence on foreign fuels. As this survey implies, when it comes to these issues, many CEOs don’t know about these issues. At the same time, the survey indicated that by far most environmental and sustainability initiatives have CEOs as their champions. So we have a strange and dysfunctional situation, where these initiatives need to be spearheaded by CEOs, that is if they are going to get underway, but CEOs don’t really understand the issues.
So it is essential that managers other than CEOs, not to mention technical specialists such as strategic planners and risk managers, bring the petroleum situation to the attention of CEOs. If these non-CEO workers don’t initiate CEO-education efforts, there is very little chance that important environmental and sustainability initiatives, like getting off of gasoline and petro-diesel fuel, will be undertaken. People really need to get that before anything is going to happen, they need to educate their CEO about the very pressing nature of what’s happening.
This petroleum problem is not theory, this is not some academic exercise, this is reality, and it is substantiated by the facts. For example, the CEO of Shell Oil is now calling for a major effort, to move to renewable energy, an effort along the lines of the Manhattan Project, the famous rush-rush U.S. government-sponsored effort to develop the nuclear bomb during World War II. Your discussions with your CEO should have the same type of urgency that the Manhattan Project did. If the major problems associated with a continued dependency on petroleum are to be minimized, and it is now too late for them to be avoided, then the conversion to alternative fuels must be undertaken right away.
Into this urgent need to educate CEOs, and get them to support conversion projects, we have the day-to-day reality that I hear from managers in charge of transportation and logistics. I gave a “Thirty Serious Reasons Why We Must Get Off Of Petroleum Now” speech at a major conference in Salt Lake City in September 2008. I received the usual response from the audience including: “Great points, and I agree with your analysis, and yes we need to do something about this, but it’s not my job, and with all that’s going on right now, I’m afraid to even bring up the topic with senior managers.”
This fear about top management’s adverse reaction is a recipe for disaster. This conversion is never going to happen before we are suffering from a major crisis, if top management isn’t getting the information that they need to make informed decisions. It is everyone’s responsibility to start talking about this hitherto taboo topic, to broach the topic in what may seem like unsuitable or awkward situations (perhaps in an elevator, but definitely whenever you get some exposure to the CEO). There is precious little time to make the conversion, and delays are only going to lead to unnecessary and serious problems. All those Paul Reveres out there, now is your time — now is the time to ring the bell signaling the alarm that we must undertaken conversion efforts to minimize our continued serious dependence on petroleum.
Charles Cresson Wood, MBA, MSE, is an alternative energy project manager with Post-Petroleum Transportation, in Sausalito, California. His most recent book is “Kicking The Gasoline & Petro-Diesel Habit: A Business Manager’s Blueprint For Action.” Information about this book, his alternative fuels blog, and the ways to contact him can be found at www.kickingthegasoline.com.