COVID-19: a message from Shell CEO Ben van Beurden
This is a moment like no other we have experienced before. But the world will overcome.
One of the very few good things about a crisis is that it is usually over quite quickly. The aftershocks go on, but the emergency itself ends. That is not the case with COVID-19. It still has a long time to run.
This is a moment like no other we have experienced before. That is as true for Shell as it is for everybody else. And it has been hard for all. Cities, provinces, whole countries in lockdown. Schools, sport, concerts all halted. Empty streets. Empty shelves.
It does feel bleak. But this time of hardship, too, will – in time – end. The aftershocks will go on, of course, but the world will overcome what it is struggling with today. I have no doubt of that. Because when I look around at how the world is responding, I see signs of hope at every turn.
I am filled with admiration for the resilience people are showing. The people who have to keep working and keep turning up day after day. The doctors, the nurses, of course. And the supermarket workers and the pharmacists too. Then there are the many millions of people we do not see, but we know are out there: the people caring for family, friends, neighbours who are ill or self-isolating.
Everywhere I look, I see people doing what they have to do to keep things going. Everywhere I look, I see people caring. A million and more acts of kindness every day.
And, in the same way, I have been deeply impressed with Shell's staff and contractors. In unprecedented times they somehow seem to know exactly the right thing to do. From those working on platforms out at sea, and those at our service stations who are keeping the fuel flowing for those who need it… to a team of 80 staff and contractors in China who turned up for a 12-hour shift and stayed to keep things running – for 40 days straight through.
Then there is Zhang Yuan, a project development manager with Shell China Retail from Wuhan. He volunteered to support logistics and transport work for Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan, to help keep it running at the very epicentre of the outbreak. His work separated him from his family, including his twin baby boys. But he did it anyway.
Also impressive was the huge effort put in by Shell’s IT team so as many people as possible could do their jobs from home. Around the world we have 70,000 people logged in, and doing their work, wherever they can find the space – from kitchen tables to bedrooms.
And make no mistake, their work is important as part of the global response to COVID-19.
Natural gas is helping to power hospitals. Our chemical plants are diverting resources to producing isopropyl alcohol as fast as they can. This makes up about half the content of the hand-sanitising liquid being used to keep the virus down around the world. And the fuels Shell is producing are powering the trucks bringing food from warehouses to shops… and powering the ships getting goods from around the globe to restock the warehouses.
And I know very well that Shell staff and contractors care about this. I applaud them for that. And for their resilience too. Shell is a large and complex company, and this is a situation that is changing moment by moment, country by country. Yet all around the company, leaders in individual countries are stepping up to make the decisions that have to be made to deal with local challenges.
So my deep gratitude goes out to everyone working for Shell. And I say to them: keep going.
The discipline they have shown, from hand washing to social distancing, has kept the number of staff and contractors who have been infected with the virus very low indeed. We must keep that discipline. The calm people have shown has allowed the company to keep making the critical products the world needs right now. We must stay calm. And our resilience as a company has got us this far, and I know we will stay resilient to get us through all the days, weeks and months to come. Just as the resilience shown in the wider world will pull it through the crisis that surrounds us all today.
This is, indeed, an unprecedented crisis. But we, all of us, will overcome it.
Especially if the world can keep hold of the spirit it is showing today, the spirit I see in Shell too. Because it is this spirit that can see us through COVID-19, and through many other challenges as well.