SAUDI ARAMCO: ON THE WAY TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT ?

Author: Leonid Tsukanov

Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Ural Young Middle East Researchers Association

Head of Monitoring and Analytics Department

Institute of Strategic Communications and Social Projects

 

Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabian Oil Company) is the national oil company of Saudi Arabia. In addition, it is the largest oil company in the world in terms of oil production and the size of oil reserves, its revenues make up a significant part of the Kingdom’s budget.

Recently, the company’s management has declared its commitment to the ideas of sustainable development and called on all other oil and gas conglomerates to follow their example. However, has Saudi Aramco really decided to fundamentally change its approach to operations? Will they now be perceived as «green» company?  It is necessary to study this issue in more detail.

Preliminary estimates

The assessment of the Saudi and foreign press showed that the attitude to the policy of Saudi Aramco is presented in it in a compromise version: the share of publications with a positive and negative tone is practically the same. In addition, there is still a large percentage of relevant materials are articles with neutral ratings – this positioning is largely due to the specifics of the editorial policy of most major newspapers and magazines (check Diagram 1).

Diagram 1. Distribution of relevant publications in mass-media by tone (%)

In this case, it is necessary to conduct a deeper analysis of the data, including using social media. The decision to include the largest social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) in the study is due to the fact that moderation on social networks is often lower than in the media, which is why the tone of publications differs more.

Methodological basis for in-depth research

To conduct research on the largest social media, an extensive query library was formed, including various lexemes related to Saudi Aramco. For a more accurate assessment of moods, Russian-language lexemes were duplicated in English, French and Arabic.

In addition, specifically to assess the «feedback» on Saudi Aramco, the author has developed the ESG-Index – a complex dynamic indicator derived as part of the study of the information field around the enterprise to assess the perception of the company’s activities in social media.

The ESGIndex includes the following elements:

  • Number of posts (Arabic-speaking segment, A/S) – a set of unique posts in Arabic-speaking social media and the blogosphere for the period under review (excluding information noise and spam).
  • Number of messages (Foreign segment, F/S) – a set of unique messages in foreign social media and the blogosphere for the period under review (excluding information noise and spam).
  • (P(a/s) and P(f/s)) – the share of positive publications (%) in the A/S and F/S segments.
  • (N (a/s) and N (f/s)) – The share of negative publications (%) in the A/S and F/S segments.

Further in the text will be used the above-mentioned abbreviations.

To obtain a more accurate number of unique messages in the period under review, the author used a complex query, including clarifying and excluding object operators, which made it possible to minimize the hit of irrelevant messages and remove various distorting elements from the analysis (spam accounts, news bot aggregators, automatic reposts etc.). In addition, the data set was additionally refined using special programs for monitoring foreign social media, and also evaluated using SaaS-systems to determine the sentiment of the messages contained in it. Thus, the final error of the obtained data was minimized to obtain an objective picture.

The final ESG-Index was calculated using the following formula:

“ESG-Index = ((A/S * (P(a/s) – N(a/s))) + (F/S * ((P(f/s) – N(f/s))))

In addition, it should be understood that the final index can be either positive or negative – it depends on the ratio of positive and negative messages. Typically, a negative ESG indicates that an enterprise’s sustainability agenda is poor.

If it is necessary to determine the Index in one of the segments, only one part of the formula is used to choose from.

Research results

The results of the social media survey are presented in the table below (check Table 1 and Diagram 2).

Name of the object A/S messages F/S messages P(a/s) messages, % N(a/s) messages, % P(f/s) messages, % N(f/s) messages, % ESG-Index
 Saudi Aramco 296 298 734 549 12 31 8 49,4 – 36 040 010,6

Table 1. Saudi Aramco ESG Index: Variables for Calculation.

As can be seen from the data presented, Saudi Aramco demonstrates a fairly high media presence – its ESG-Index hovers around 36.04 million points. For comparison: the ESG-Index of the American corporation Exxon Mobile, which is considered one of the main competitors of Saudi Aramco in the markets of Europe and Asia, barely exceeds the point of 19 million.

On the other hand, both in the national and foreign segments of the Internet, the share of negative publications exceeds positive ones – in the Arabic language by 2.58 times, in the foreign language – by 6.2 times. In turn, this leads to a negative connotation of the ESG final score for Saudi Aramco. This further differentiates it from other companies in the oil and gas industry – most of which have a positive ESG-Index.

Diagram 2. Distribution of relevant publications in social media by topic, % (method of enlarged groups).

If we study the situation from the point of view of individual topics (the method of enlarged groups), it becomes clear that most of the negative materials are concentrated in the field of environmental policy. Social media users criticize the Saudi Aramco leadership for pressure on the environment, environmental pollution, concealment of the true scale of emissions, etc. There are so many negative publications in this group that positive and neutral materials are lost against their background.

On the other hand, in the context of other sustainable development goals, the adherence to which was previously declared by the leadership of Saudi Aramco, the situation looks much better – the emphasis is either shifted towards neutral publications, or (as in the case of the concept of «access to specialized education») towards positive ones. Consequently, over the past year, the attitude of social media users to politics has changed for the better.

Final provisions

Thus, it can be concluded that public perception of Saudi Aramco has really changed for the better over the past year. If we do not take into account the environmental aspect of activities (which, as a rule, has a general negative connotation for all enterprises in the oil and gas industry), then social media users (both representatives of the Arab world and foreign countries) note positive shifts in the company’s strategy.

It should be expected that in the coming years Saudi Aramco will most likely focus on developing the positive aspects of its activities related to the theme of sustainable development – in order to deflect as much attention as possible from the problems with the environmental agenda and shape the final image in a positive-neutral manner.

* This research was conducted using the methodological developments of the Institute of Strategic Communications and Social Projects.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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