In 2018, the Norwegian company Statoil changed its name to Equinor to reflect a shift in identity from an oil company to a broader energy company. Reidar Gjaerum and his CEO Eldar Saetre worked together to create a step-by-step change platform that was driven by purpose, inspired by vision, and guided by values. Most importantly, the Page Model was at the heart of their work, and they spoke about how they used it to begin the profound transformation of a 46-year old company that is two-thirds owned by the government and how they got approvals for this monumental change all the way up the line to the Prime Minister of Norway.
- Reidar Gjaerum, Chief Communications Officer, Equinor ASA
- Eldar Saetre, President and CEO, Equinor ASA [via pre-recorded video]
Equinor is a Norwegian energy company with 20,000 employees, operations in more than 30 countries, and a market cap of $75 billion. Its biggest shareholder is the Norwegian government.
The challenge for Equinor was to recraft its purpose and identity – which ultimately led to a change of name from Statoil – and to move the enterprise from a Norwegian-centric company to global.
“The world is facing a great dual challenge. To take forceful action to stop man-made climate change, and to secure clean, affordable energy for all.”
Equinor leadership team knew it needed get ahead of things and face these issues before a crisis forced them to change.
The team started with the four key pillars of the business: new energy solutions, midstream and marketing, Norwegian continental shelf, and international oil & gas.
These pillars became overlaid with three objectives that underscored the future-facing goals:
- Always safe
- High value
- Low carbon
Using tools from Page’s The New CCO thought leadership report, the team developed its purpose, vision, and values:
“A complete strategy must do more than deciding what to do – how we do it is also important. We have always defined ourselves as a values-based company. But now we had a need for something that inspired the organization to drive the right progress.” – Gjaerum
Turning natural resources into energy for people and progress for society.
Shaping the future of energy.
“We created shared belief around three dimensions: combating climate change, access to affordable and sustainable energy, and how the energy industry must contribute. Only by acknowledging that can we be accepted by a partner in solutions, not only as a source of the problems.” – Gjaerum
Through this work, the idea of changing the name started to grow, as its identification with “oil” seemed increasingly out of touch. But this was risky, especially with no external driver such as a merger or fundamental business shift driving it.
“I can tell you it took a lot of thinking before going to the CEO with a two-page memo and introducing the idea.” – Gjaerum
- The CEO: “This was difficult in many aspects. It was a tough decision, and probably the most emotional decision I’ve ever made. The legacy of this company is so much associated with the name. Also, a new name creates expectations and obligations.” – Saetre
- The Norwegian government: As the company’s biggest shareholder, the government needed to approve the change. Three cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister heard the company’s proposal and debated the merits of the decision.
- Employees: “It was extremely emotional to a number of long-term employees to let the old name go. That’s fine, that’s fair. We don’t expect you to cheer from day one.” – Gjaerum
Following the launch, the company created a special Yammer site for employees to vent frustrations, and created special events to help the community adapt to the new moniker.
- Ten months after Gjaerum handed his CEO that memo, 99.2% of the board voted in favor of the name change.
- Within the first quarter of launch, they achieved 80% awareness of the new name in Norway.
- The company has strengthened its profile as an innovative, future-oriented and sustainable energy company.
- Millennials are the most positive to the change.
- Brand value has increased.
Gjaerum reflected on three takeaways for the Page audience:
- All communications must be anchored in and directed by business objectives.
- Communications is as much about influencing decisions as it is about communicating them.
- If you have an opportunity to try to do something big, trust your judgement.
In their own words:
“This journey of massive change has demonstrated the importance of communications as a tool for realizing a company’s strategy, to build understanding and support from stakeholders internally and externally.”
“Strategy has to be connected to the society around us.”