Leadership Matters

Perspectives on the key issues impacting senior leaders and their organizations
April 13, 2022

How long-serving senior oil and gas executives can make the transition into climate roles

We spend an increasing amount of our time having conversations with senior executives transitioning out of the oil majors who tell us they want to work in climate-related roles. They have transferable skills. They have spent their careers taking fossil fuels out of the ground and now want to be part of the solution. Moreover, they understand large, matrixed organizations and have led large teams. We describe them as “repurposed energy specialists”, but they often don’t make it past the long list because companies see them as part of the “old world”.

This causes more of a problem than is recognised. Senior executives leaving the extractives industries as part of company-wide reorganisations, may have high salary expectations, but they also have a lot to offer. If they are excluded due to employers’ bias against their prior experience, organizations are missing an opportunity to utilise their highly transferable skills.

This is often exacerbated by the corporate conditioning of the executives themselves, who for years have benchmarked their success, seniority and compensation against a “years served” model rather than one based on the innovation skillset of young climate talent. It often creates an impasse between candidate and client – a “C-suite or nothing” mentality – where expectations are misaligned. There has to be a better solution.

We advise long-serving extractives and energy executives who want to reinvent their careers towards energy transformation to do the following:

  • Offer your leadership capabilities and commerciality as a senior adviser or volunteer in a climate-related business or startup. The period of transition until you find a full-time role will be shorter than you think.
  • Utilize fundamental functional skillsets and regional knowledge and networks, which do not change during transitions. Is there an entry into new energies via a region of the world, or through finance, strategy, risk, safety, legal, health or HR functions? Tap into this knowledge.
  • Make use of courses that help build your climate and ESG credibility. There is a growing number of programmes and qualifications available for those seeking to build their credentials in the space, ranging from academic postgraduates at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership to The Climate School.
  • Reframe your perception of seniority, compensation and a trajectory commensurate with “years served”. Future energy transformation talent has a calling, is driven by impact and sustainable systems change and has not followed a traditional career path that can be directly compared to yours.

The world of energy talent is changing at a rapid rate. Former competitors are collaborating and partnering across boundaries to face the climate crisis. Capabilities like learning agility, leadership, customer mindset, vulnerability and resilience are highly prized, and former extractives executives will be unstoppable when they can bring these to bear in the new order.