Every lost job is a tragedy — particularly in these difficult economic times. But Shell’s cuts today are less dramatic than they first seem — particularly given the collapse in demand for oil.
Chief executive Ben Van Beurden tries to look tough by announcing cuts, but peer closer and he’s really being a pussycat.
BP is cutting 10,000 jobs right now. They’ll be done by the end of the year. That’s what I call tough.
Shell may bid farewell to 7,000, and not ‘til the end of 2022 — more than two years away. Of those, 1500 have already agreed to take voluntary redundancy.
Theoretically, then, we could be talking about 2,250 a year. In a company with nearly 90,000 staff, after natural wastage (a horrible phrase), that’s hardly carnage.
What will be more interesting is how Van Beurden reorganises those remaining in his sprawling group so Shell can thrive in greener times.
He wants Shell to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 and cut the carbon its customers spew out, too.
That means not only developing new biofuels for them to use, or hydrogen for lorries. It also means helping build the infrastructure to deliver it.
On top of that, it has to get the public to buy in, too. That means getting governments to impose taxes and grants to change people’s behaviour.
A huge body of work, then, requiring everything from hard-core engineering to big data analysis to lobbying and PR.
Financial trading skills will be key, too. BP and Shell have huge trading arms, buying and selling all sorts of energy and carbon credits for clients around the world. This will be key as multinationals demand a one-stop shop for clean power.
The good news is that London is the world leader in all these activities. The adjustment will be painful for those whose roles are lost or changed, but there will be no shortage of jobs in the capital as we move to a greener world.