Mirco MBA Survival of the smartest

18 October 2017
Breukelen, The Netherlands

Most of us think that time for doing business as usual is running out. If we are to believe an increasing number of climate change scientists, time has already run out and we have passed the point of no return to keep global warming within the two degree range. Welcome to the Anthropocene, the era in which human activity is having a direct impact on the earth systems, including its temperature. Its manifestations are making themselves felt all only too well. The recent tropical storm Harvey, which hit Texas and had near apocalyptic dimensions, is just one of these symptoms that are increasingly making themselves felt.

No doubt, our physical environment is changing. As Darwin’s evolution theory teaches us, a changing environment leads to the extinction of settled species and emergence of new ones. The energy sector is no exception to this phenomena. Big players in the energy sector that have a direct connection to large emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) are the new endangered species now. Robert Kleiburg, until recently the director of ECN, introduces us to the Anthropocene.

Still it is not too late for these companies. On the contrary, they can put their large resources at use to join the successful species of tomorrow. Moreover, history proves that this is not an impossible achievement, even here in the Netherlands. The Dutch Koninklijke DSM, which was originally a state mining company, started closing its mines in the sixties and seventies due to cheaper competition from abroad. Nevertheless, it managed to transform into a biotech company and entered a whole new market and sector, successfully. It had managed to survive. Rob Kirschbaum, who was closely involved in this process, shares his valuable experience and advice with us.

Some would draw a comparison between DSM back then and another major Dutch company, Shell, today. Marc van Baal, founder of the initiative Follow This whose goal it is to transform Shell into a company for sustainable energy, tells us about the motives behind Follow This and the instruments civil society can use to change major companies from ‘outside’, for example as shareholders.

Innovation and technological change are following each other rapidly, the innovation curve is getting steeper. The future has quite a few technological surprise and breakthroughs in stock. Traditional energy companies of today could transform into players on completely new technologies and services. Coyan Trump, from Future Planet Studies at the University of Amsterdam, will make an attempt to paint a picture of the world in 2050. By using different scenarios and roadmaps she will sketch what the world might look like in 2050, including what new business models, if any, will appear.

To be aware of the fact that business cannot continue as usual, is one thing. The future nevertheless remains unpredictable and will call for unconventional decisions, which make a solid strategy indispensable to fall back on when reaching complex crossroads. Richard Janssen, from the Strategy Center of Nyenrode Business University, will explain the importance of a good strategy and the ingredients for success.