Fueling cleaner changes for a better future

Green Energy

István Kapitány

István Kapitány is the global executive vice president responsible for Shell’s Mobility business, overseeing a mobility retail business network of 46,000 sites and operations in close to 80 countries, and president of the Hungarian Managers’ Association. The Hungarian executive tells the Budapest Business Journal how his company is working on leading a positive change in energy.

Globally, almost 500,000 front-line employees of Shell serve more than 30 million customers every day, selling 200 billion liters of fuel, 250 million cups of coffee, 350 million cold drinks and 450 million snacks each year, according to the company.

In Hungary, Shell’s numbers are on an equally grand scale. As the largest international player in the local retail fuel market, its fuel retail network has almost 200 service stations nation-wide. Hungarian operations are part of Shell Mobility’s growing Central and Eastern Europe business, which plays an important role in its European operations.

Humans have burned some kind of fuel to generate energy since ancient times. As is now beyond scientific doubt, we known that when we burn fossil fuels, the released carbon dioxide, together with other greenhouse gases, trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, contributing significantly to climate change.

The scale of this has grown as mobility has been rapidly changing due to swift urbanization, rising incomes, enhanced digitalization and decreasing costs. As a major producer and retailer of fossil fuels, Shell insists it is doing its part to drive change.

“Last month, Shell released an updated business strategy which sets a new course for the company through the energy transition,” Kapitány, who recently gave the keynote speech to the online conference Managers for Society: Future is in Focus organized by the Hungarian Managers’ Association, tells the BBJ.

“As part of our new strategy, our mission is to help the millions of brand-loyal customers we serve every day – from large businesses to individual consumers – to decarbonize,” he says. The oil and gas giant’s ambition is to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 by providing cleaner energy in a more responsible manner.

The changes that will require are happening in Hungary, too. “Our commitment to the energy transition applies equally in Budapest as much as it does in Amsterdam or Houston. In Hungary, we’re focused on working to accelerate the transition to net-zero emissions and also helping our customers to decarbonize,” Kapitány explains.

Electric Avenue

Shell is growing its electric vehicle charging network in the country: it has launched its Shell Recharge brand, offering 50 kW charging points on the M3 highway (heading east from Budapest to Nyíregyháza) and the M7 (which runs southwest from Budapest, past Lake Balaton, towards the Croatian border at Letenye).

Shell has also joined a collaboration with IONITY, a Germany-based high-power charging station network for electric vehicles, aiming to provide more of the 350 kW super-fast charging points, three of which are already available on the M7 and the M0 (the orbital motorway around Budapest).

Given his vantage point from near the top of a major multinational, Kapitány is optimistic both about the local business potential and the labor market.

“In my view, the opportunities for Hungarians in business is limitless. In my role as president of the Hungarian Managers Association, I can see the quality of professionals that we have. My career started in Hungary so, naturally, I would like to share my 30 years of international business experience with talented Hungarian executives,” he says.

“One of my goals is to encourage top executives in Hungary to join the association, to mentor and support emerging Hungarian executives to become key players in regional and international business in even larger numbers,” he adds.

Kapitány says he is personally involved in a mentoring program within the association, working on shaping the professionals of a more diverse future.

“I feel that there has been a positive shift in this area with diversity firmly on the agenda within business in Hungary. But there is always more to do to move further faster. Shell Hungary is very active and supports organizations and initiatives focused on the diversity agenda, i.e. the Hungarian Business Leaders Forum with its HBLF inter-enterprise female mentoring program, or Women in Energy (WONY)”, he says.

COVID Support

The challenges of the future, however, are already here today. As the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world, with different timing and at different rates, local and national governments have implemented different responses with various requirements. Shell says it kept 99% of its service stations open globally.

“To support essential workers, we donated two million units of coffee, food and sanitizers, showing a concerted effort all over the world to provide care, health and safety to frontline workers, our staff and the communities where we operate,” Kapitány says.

Shell also implemented enhanced cleaning and safety measures, provided personal protective equipment for staff, and offered free fuel to essential workers.

“In many markets, during the peak of the pandemic, we utilized our digital capabilities to start offering home delivery of groceries and supplies for the first time, and in other markets where we already offered this, we’ve scaled it up,” he says by way of example.

“This has contributed significantly to our sales in many markets, including Hungary where we partnered with NetPincér GO. We have also seen a marked increase in customers opting to use our touchless mobile payment option for their fuel, paying from within their cars via their smartphones,” the executive VP says.

As Charles Darwin said, only those who are most adaptable to change will survive. Shell sees three broad and large-scale changes in the retail landscape which are directing the future of the retail business within the company.

The first is an increasing willingness of consumers to spend more money in order to save time. The second is the energy and mobility transition and the way in which concern for the environment is changing consumer behavior. The third is the digital revolution and mobile connectivity.

“As a society we are going through a significant period of change. In the energy sector where Shell operates, the goods and services that are offered to us as consumers, and the ways in which they are delivered, are changing at a staggering pace. Our challenge of staying agile and relevant in such a dynamic, rapidly evolving marketplace is a big part of what we are currently focused on in the mobility business,” Kapitány concludes.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of  March 12, 2021.

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