Adapt Your Climate Strategy to Stay Competitive

Adapt Your Climate Strategy to Stay Competitive

How can oil companies best respond to global competition and climate change? Keep up with competition by adapting your climate change strategy.
NBS August 29, 2010

Don't be blinded by your current state.

Local pressures shape corporate climate strategies. For example, European companies express more interest in image because Europeans show stronger public environmental concern than Americans. Yet, companies are also subject to international pressures due to the global nature of the oil industry.

Research by David Levy and Ans Kolk on multinational corporations finds tension between global integration and local influences. Their study, Strategic Responses to Global Climate Change, looks at how oil companies respond to global competition and climate change.


Convergence of Strategy with Local & Global Factors of Influence

Local factors and context influence initial actions, but climate change have started converging. Oil companies participate in a global industry with access to similar technology and markets. Companies are becoming more aware of competitor responses, international regulation, and climate science.

How Companies are Repositioning Themselves

The major oil companies (BP, Shell, and Exxon) acknowledge climate change as a threat and are adapting. Shell and BP have repositioned themselves as "energy companies" and are investing in renewables to improve their image and product acceptance. Exxon, known for opposing emissions regulation, has invested in fuel cells and recapturing carbon. Exxon has admitted climate risk is "widely recognized" and that doing nothing is "neither prudent nor responsible." The company is also investing in energy efficiency and carbon capture for storage. Investing in alternative technologies and emissions reduction can help companies keep up in a changing global market.

Oil Companies Investing in Renewables

BP expects renewables to account for five percent of revenue by 2020, and 50 percent by 2060. Shell believes renewables will account for 30-40 percent of global energy by 2060 and has committed to invest $500 million mainly in solar and wind over five years.

Implications for Managers

Don't by blinded by your existing – and locally influenced – threats and opportunities. Your country's institutional frames may not help determine future market conditions.

Keep up with competition by adapting your climate change strategy:

Implications for Researchers

Future research could examine whether similar pressures drive the climate change strategies of other business sectors. We also suggest research can follow how the oil sector continues to change in the medium to long term in response to climate change.


The paper by Levy and Kolk analyzes the strategies of four major oil companies in Europe (Shell, BP) and the U.S (Exxon, Texaco) in response to climate change and what pressures have the most influence. Data are taken from interviews with 16 senior managers responsible for strategy, public affairs and environmental concerns, as well as industry staff, government agencies and NGOs. Data are also taken from secondary sources.
Levy, David, & Kolk, Ans.(2002). Strategic Responses to Global Climate Change: Conflicting Pressures on Multinationals in the Oil Industry. Business and Politics, 4(3): 275-300.

additional resources

Reports and Articles

Dr. Ann Dale and Rob Newell of Royal Roads University provide five tips for companies seeking innovative ways to address climate change.

Research Insight

Managers can learn from different strategies when considering how to deal with climate change in their business.

Lauren Rakowski
Case Study

Accountants play a core role in climate change adaptation. They provide analysis to underpin key decisions, adding substance to sustainability discussions.

S. Jeff Birchall