Shell chairman: We won’t abandon energy, but we will evolve

September 28, 2015, 11:28 PM UTC

Chad Holliday, chairman of oil giant Shell, said Monday the company aims to change according to data gathered by a new industry commission it is helping to form—even if the information leads it away from its current businesses. Shell will be part of the 16-member Energy Transitions Commission, which he announced at Fortune Brainstorm E, an energy and environment conference in Austin. (Fortune’s Brian Dumaine previewed many of the details of the commission earlier Monday.)

Nine members of the commission “don’t get a paycheck from an oil company,” Holliday said. This means that while fossil-fuel companies like Shell will have a large say in the commission’s output, it will not be able to veto or suppress its findings. Moreover, Holliday said Shell’s leadership would take a fact-based approach to following the commission’s recommendations. This comes naturally to Shell, he said, which was a pioneer of so-called corporate scenario planning as a decision making tool.

Said Holliday: “We do believe the Shell company can bring perspectives that are useful. We’ve been doing scenario planning for 40 years. [The commission is] going to come up with an answer. Even if the CEO doesn’t like the answer.”

Holliday credited global consultant McKinsey for coming to the oil industry with the idea for the commission. He said it will look initially at issues like solar energy and air pollution. The goal, he said, is to paint of picture of where the energy industry is going—as opposed to where the oil industry would like it to go.

Asked if in years to come Shell will still be an energy company, he said it would. But he previewed the pivot Shell sees, at least from a messaging perspective. “The world needs our systems capability and our distribution capability,” he said. The next question will be how long the world will need Shell’s oil and gas.

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