Total, a French energy giant, has this week rebranded to TotalEnergies after receiving approval from 99.88% of the votes by its shareholders.

Many comments have seen this as a result of the green pressure from activists and the society in general. May 2021 seems to be a turning point for big oil, with many companies under various pressure to adapt to a greener future.

We think Total’s rebranding is a good, and necessary, move. It is much more than just being green, but also sustainability of the company as a whole.

Start with why

Anyone who has managed a company, regardless of size, will know that it is very difficult to align internally, and project a clear image externally.

The complexity is multiplied when you try to change that. Many businesses fail to do that, while being too focused on their existing products/revenue streams. As a result, they miss disruption altogether.

Using Apple as an example, Simon Sinek made a very interesting point in his book “Start with why“.

What would have happened if railway companies in the US positioned and communicated themselves as passenger transportation companies? they might have become owners of airlines, instead of being disrupted by aviation.

Similarly, Dell making MP3 ended up in failure because customers saw Dell just as a computer company, not a consumer electronics one.

Too often, companies launching new initiatives on the right direction, but without alignment internally and externally through clear communications, the efforts fail.

And companies go back to “focus on the core business“.

Good first step

For Total and some other oil companies, the leadership probably have all realised that oil has finite future. However, without a clear shift of positioning from oil to energy needs in general, it is often hard to change that image, and how internal people think/act/incentivise.

Changing the name to highlight the “energies” is a very good top line effort.

Whether that will bring real change, and whether real change can be applied consistently, will be a good test for the company and its leadership.

But at least this is one step towards the right direction.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at hello@mworks.asia.

 

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Jianggan Li is the Founder & CEO of Momentum Works. Prior to founding Momentum Works, he co-founded Easy Taxi in Asia, and served as Managing Director of Foodpanda. The two years running Rocket Internet companies has given him a lifetime experience on supersonic implementation, and good camaraderie with entrepreneurs across the developing world. He holds a MBA from INSEAD (GMAT 770) and a degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University. Unfortunately he never wrote a single line of code professionally - but in his first job he was in media, travelling extensively across Asia & Europe, speaking with Ministers & (occasionally) Prime Ministers. Apart from English and his native Mandarin, he is also fluent in French and conversational in Cantonese & Spanish. He tried to learn Latin (for three years) and Sanskrit (for six months) as well. In his (scarce) free time, he reads, travels, hikes and dives. Pyongyang, Tehran & Chisinau are among the interesting cities he has been to.