Maersk aims high but shoots itself in the foot

This is a bold, beautiful, but ultimately inept production from Maersk. At times during the film’s somewhat grandiose 12-minute running time, we find the company teetering on the brink of relevance beyond operational excellence but it constantly withdraws to the safety of platitudinous soundbites about its way of doing business.

The problem is Maersk’s scale. As the script notes at the outset, the company is almost ubiquitous: ‘Pick a point on the globe, any point, and Maersk won’t be far away.’ What an amazingly priviliged position for a company to be in. Few if any businesses can match Maersk in terms of scope of operations. They are at the core of global trade, powering, transporting, enabling the capitalistic exchange.

All of which gives it plenty of scope to play a really meaningful role in forging more innovative and sustainable business practices. Instead we’re treated to languorous scenes of its gargantuan ships and mid-ocean drilling rigs in operation while company talking heads regale us with vague stories detailing the achievements of some of Maersk’s different business units.

The disappointment hits just after the 1.10 mark following John Hurt’s stirring announcement that the company is ‘preparing for new times, new challenges’. Prepped for inspiring stories of how Maersk is pioneering new forms of sustainable energy, seeking ways to reduce its carbon footprint, maybe even announcing that it will henceforth refuse to transport weapons, I fell into a deep funk at the lack of vision that followed: cleverer ways of drilling to extract what remains of the earth’s oil, bigger ships, smarter logistics. Business as usual, in other words.

Maersk is clearly excellent at doing what it is currently doing – micromanaging macro processes, optimizing, scaling… all the things you expect a corporate behemoth to be good at. But on the evidence of this film, it is less adept at judging what it is to be a company in 2012. It has spectacularly misjudged the zeitgeist.

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