CEO remarks at YLAB Academy 2020

Talking with 60 employees selected from hundreds of applicants to compete to lead the company’s advisory board for employees under age 35, Saudi Aramco president and CEO Amin Nasser said that when it comes to the health of people and our climate, “We are each a link in a chain that is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Good morning.

I wish we could be together in person. But given COVID-19, meeting virtually is the next best thing!

Let me start by congratulating you for being selected for the YLAB Academy. 

It’s hard to believe, but YLAB will mark its 10th anniversary next year. I remember early on there was a strong belief that YLAB was needed in order to bring the youth perspective into the Accelerated Transformation Program and into our decision-making in general.

However, there were also some early doubts – in particular around the sustainability of YLAB.

In hindsight, YLAB has proven to be successful. It has been a catalyst for transformation and change as well as a way to find and nurture talented young men and women. Your group of 60 is from a diverse cross-section of the company, representing many different areas and careers. But all of you have one thing in common – you are all potential leaders.

Now, Aramco has more than 40,000 employees in the age group that could apply to be part of the YLAB. The very fact that you have been selected is proof of your potential.

That said, before we move to the Q and A, I’d like to briefly talk about the unprecedented times we are facing today. When I last spoke to YLAB in January, one of the things I stressed was that we must be prepared to overcome challenges – “not only the ones we can anticipate, but those we cannot predict.”

I didn’t expect these words to become so real, so quickly.

2020, so far has been a challenge no one could have predicted.

COVID-19 has forced us to do things differently, from the way we interact with our families and friends – to the way we work. Because of COVID, we are doing more work virtually – which is something all of you are good at.

The impact of COVID has been unforgiving for many businesses which had to shut down. Some had to re-invent themselves in quick time, and sadly many people lost their jobs. And many of these jobs won’t return – they are permanently lost, unfortunately!  

Consequently, I am sure you know the effect on oil prices and demand. As a company, Aramco has also been challenged. But our unique low-cost base and the resilience of our talented workforce are significant differentiators that will enable us to withstand the headwinds.
 
And while there has been a lot of uncertainty this year, one thing has been clear – the wellbeing of our workforce has proven to be only as strong as our actions individually.

We are each a link in a chain that is only as strong as its weakest link.

This is true beyond the COVID pandemic.  It’s true for the health of our climate. Indeed, climate change is the single biggest challenge we face going forward as an organization – and as individual citizens of this planet.

Now, for the record, I am among those who firmly believe that oil and gas will still be needed and will be around for a long time.

Accordingly, I believe we must find ways to further reduce the environmental impact of billions of people who use our products to live, to move, to survive and to thrive. Against this backdrop, our strategy is straightforward.

We intend to monetize our resources and embrace technology and innovation in order to minimize greenhouse gas emissions … making oil and gas cleaner. And we believe that IR4 technologies and digital transformation will help us to further lower our carbon foot print and achieve a higher level of sustainability for oil and gas.

In addition, we also face another challenge: COVID-19. With COVID, we are in a situation that challenges every company, every community and every family.

But I believe the mission is clear. 

Right now, we must work together to position Aramco not only to weather the current downturn, but to emerge in a better position and greater strength. That means we must sharpen our focus on productivity, cost efficiency and operational excellence. And every one of us must perform at our very best.

Now, one of the things I have been proud of this year is that, in spite of the difficult circumstances, much has also been accomplished. Our people have demonstrated extraordinary courage when confronted with uncertainty. Simply put, we continued to “redefine resilience” to meet the challenges at hand. Yes, adversity is an obstacle. But it’s also a catalyst.

So, how does this relate to your role with YLAB?

One of my favorite memories since we created YLAB nearly a decade ago, was the words of a young participant who said, “YLAB stretches you so that you can never return to your original shape!”  I think this is a great way of putting it! 

And if you move forward with the cohort, I hope you welcome the continued stretching. Yesterday’s storytelling workshop is a perfect example. The day was designed to enhance your storytelling ability so you can better engage, influence, motivate, and build relationships with others.

This Academy is designed to build your leadership skills. And I know limited capacity means only a handful of you will be selected for this cohort. I know there will be disappointment. But if you are not selected, I want you to realize one thing…

This is not the end. Rather, this is a beginning.

This is an opportunity to turn a short-term disappointment into a long-term catalyst for personal and professional growth … with a renewed focus on continuing to build your leadership skills. This is an opportunity to return to your “day job” and become an ambassador for the kind of transformation that you want to see.

Ultimately, this is an opportunity to get connected with a very special group of peers – as together, you represent the future. Now, for those of you who make the cut, I have two requests. Yes, an assignment already!

First, I want you to find ways to engage past alumni as well as all the YLAB Academy participants in this group today.

Second, I want those of you in this next cohort to work with the current YLAB cohort to re-invent YLAB for the next decade.

A lot has changed since YLAB was conceived. In the world, in our industry, and at Aramco. As such, we must ask ourselves: how can YLAB make even more of an impact including in areas like tackling climate change for example? 

What changes should be introduced?

How should YLAB evolve?

These are my questions for the cohort.  And I want you to answer these questions before the end of this year – so when we celebrate the 10-year anniversary next year, we can do so by launching YLAB 2.0.

On that note, thank you for listening.