In 2012, Denmark’s biggest energy company, Danish Oil and Natural Gas, slid into financial crisis as the price of gas was plunging by 90% and S&P downgraded its credit rating to negative. The board hired a former executive at LEGO, Henrik Poulsen, as the new CEO. Whereas some leaders might have gone into crisis-management mode, laying off workers until prices recovered, Poulsen recognized the moment as an opportunity for fundamental change.
See our 2019 Transformation 20 Rankings and Key Lessons for Leaders
“We saw the need to build an entirely new company,” says Poulsen. He renamed the firm Ørsted after the legendary Danish scientist Hans Christian Ørsted, who discovered the principles of electromagnetism. “It had to be a radical transformation; we needed to build a new core business and find new areas of sustainable growth. We looked at the shift to combat climate change, and we became one of the few companies to wholeheartedly make this profound decision, to be one of the first to go from black to green energy.”
That strategic impulse—to identify a higher-purpose mission that galvanizes the organization—is a common thread among the Transformation 20, a new study by Innosight of the world’s most transformative companies.
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Fortifying this new view, the Business Roundtable last month released a statement signed by 181 CEOs
stating that serving shareholders can no longer be the main purpose of a corporation; rather, it needs to be about serving society, through innovation, commitment to a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.