This week, we speak with Sir John Browne, executive chairman of L1 Energy and chairman of the supervisory board of Wintershall DEA. As group chief executive of BP from 1995 to 2007, he led the company through a period of major expansion. Browne studied physics at Cambridge, and received an MS from Stanford. He is chairman of the Francis Crick Institute on genetic research, and chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. Browne is the author of numerous books, most recently, Make, Think, Imagine: Engineering the Future of Civilisation.
Browne explains why engineering is responsible for so much of humanity’s progress, it is the golden thread throughout everything: heath care, economics, defense, transportation, shelter and more. Browne notes that “Engineers have saved far more lives than all of the doctors in the world” through their inventions.
Browne discusses the BP campaign “Beyond Petroleum,” which was the company’s attempt to position itself for the long run beyond carbon-based energy. You may be surprised to hear the CEO of a giant oil/energy company discussing the reality of global warming in a blunt frank way, including the impact of carbon on the climate, global temperatures, and ocean levels. He also notes the impact of fracking, which was invented at Amoco, now a part of the BP group of companies.
He discusses why “Coming out of the closet was good business.” He discusses living a double life as a closeted gay man who was also a CEO of a major company. Noteworthy to Brown is the lack of role models and why there are only a handful of “out” CEOs at S&P500 companies, when statistically, there should be 25-50 CEOs. After he came out, one of his competitors had said to him “John, we all knew you were gay, only none of us were ever brave enough to discuss it with you.”
His favorite books are here; A transcript of our conversation is available here.
You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on Apple iTunes, Overcast, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Bloomberg, and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.
Next week, we speak with Sarah Ketterer, Chief executive officer and cofounder at Causeway, an international value manager with $52 billion under management. Ketterer was Morningstar International Manager of the Year in 2017.
John Browne’s Authored Books
Make, Think, Imagine: Engineering the Future of Civilization by John Browne
Seven Elements That Changed the World: An Adventure of Ingenuity and Discovery by John Browne
The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good Business by John Browne
Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically with Society by John Browne with Robin Nuttall and Tommmy Stadlen
Beyond Business: An Inspirational Memoir from a Visionary Leader by John Browne
John Browne’s Favorite Books
Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company by Andrew Grove
The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard
Unto Us a Son Is Given by Donna Leon
The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
Books Barry Mentioned
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker