Imagine what it would be like to live in perennial darkness devoid of sunlight?
The premiere of Regenerative Soul at Bangchak headquarters. Somchai Poomlard
To illuminate a path to a sustainable future, Bangchak Corporation -- a leading energy company aspiring to become a "greenovation group" of Asia -- returns to the fundamental question: How can humanity's relentless quest for energy align with sustainable goals?
Enter Regenerative Soul, a thought-provoking thematic film that the energy conglomerate recently launched.
The five-minute film is presented in a compelling, short-film format, a rarity since the heydays of advertising in the 90s.
It transports viewers to a primitive era. In a deep, sun-deprived valley, a young boy endeavours to bring light to his village where his ailing sister lies.
The boy's attempt to harness the sunlight is scorned by the elders. He persists, however, hauling a big mirror to the sunlit side of the mountain. The reflected light briefly shines on the village, only to vanish when the mirror is toppled.
The boy's innovative idea and determination inspire the elders to unite. They join hands to erect a panel of mirrors that finally provides the shadowy village with life-giving rays.
Activities resume, the sick girl recovers and she gets to see a real flower for the first time, having only read about it before.
"It is our intention to leave it up to the viewer what messages they would like to take from the story. Each person may have his or her interpretation of what the campaign is trying to convey," said Chaiwat Kovavisarach, group chief executive officer and president of Bangchak.
He added that the story itself is multi-dimensional so it could leave different impressions on different groups of people. For example, one viewer said he likes the part that shows the kid's initiative being doubted by an elder and thinks it particularly resonates with Bangchak.
Chaiwat Kovavisarach, Bangchak Group's chief executive officer and president. Somchai Poomlard
"I did not look at it that way before but after I heard the opinion, I think it is quite relevant. Just like the kid in the video campaign, Bangchak has been watched with scepticism over the past years. At first, people wondered whether we would survive as an independent company after having been a state enterprise. Some people said we would not survive for more than a few years but look where we are. We have not only survived but acquired Esso (Thailand)," Chaiwat said, referring to the recent purchase of a 65.99% share in Esso (Thailand) from Esso Asia Holdings for 22.6 billion baht.
For him, the thematic film effectively communicates Bangchak's brand identity as the leader in energy transition and sustainability.
The key message is the "regenerative soul" under the brand idea "Greenovate To Regenerate".
"When people talk about sustainability, it sometimes conveys a sense of something static. Is sustainability like a mountain, or rock, that will stay the same in the next 100 years? But to us, sustainability embodies a dynamic process, a continual evolution that perpetually regenerates itself. More importantly, the process should be as close to the nature's way as possible," Chaiwat said.
Expanding on the idea, he said a sustainable practice does not mean we have to keep a leaf green forever. Rather, it entails an effort to emulate the leaf's natural journey, from sprouting to falling to the ground, nurturing yet another season of blooms in an ever-renewing cycle.
That is why Chaiwat would rather present a thought-provoking story to mark the company's 40th anniversary which starts this month and reaffirm its brand identity. "Greenovate To Regenerate", which reflects Bangchak's approach to address energy security and its belief that social and environmental responsibilities must be integrated into the company's processes and operations as an inseparable aspect of its business to carry genuine meaning of sustainability.
Scenes from Regenerative Soul. Bangchak Corporation
"Bangchak does not believe in chasing after sustainability fads or buzzwords which may change every couple of years. We have contributed to society from inception, not through freebies or handouts but through meaningful actions. We are a pioneer in providing solar power and a leader in biofuels. Despite selling petrol, we initiated an electric motorcycle project," Chaiwat said.
Last year, the company also invested in the production of biofuel for aircraft, known as sustainable aviation fuel, from used cooking oil. This type of fuel reportedly generates up to 80% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional jet fuel.
Numerous awards, including an MSCI ESG Rating 2022 of "AA" -- the highest among Thai companies in the oil and gas refining, marketing, and transportation and storage sectors -- and more recently the Thailand Quality Award and Global Performance Excellence Award for the oil and refinery business this year, are testaments of Bangchak's devotion to the sustainable and excellence cause.
Referring back to the thematic film, Chaiwat said the mirror-and-flower story was deliberately set in a primitive time because he wishes to emphasise the need for sustainable practices to be close to nature, regardless of the era.
"People could live well and sustainably even if they did not have any high-tech means because they learned to conform to nature, to strike a balance between human needs and those of the environment. Sustainable practices cannot be set in stone. They must be built upon, innovated upon and improved upon as time goes by," Chaiwat noted.
He said another reason he chose to do the thematic film to mark the company's anniversary instead of hammering brand awareness through a more traditional hard-hitting, hard-sale campaign was because he wishes to reignite the fire in the creativity field.
"A few decades ago, we had some memorable brand-building, story-telling commercials, which really showcased the craftsmanship of people in the creative industry. It is a pity that these well-produced, high-quality campaigns have disappeared and been replaced by hard-sell promos or comic gags," Chaiwat said.
Many Thai film directors, who have made names for themselves both locally and internationally, emerged from advertising production during this period. Chaiwat hopes that Bangchak's commercial could rekindle interest in the genre and the overall industry.
The challenge he gave to the production team was to produce a film that would not only make people watch to the end, but do so again and again.
"This is not a campaign to sell our products or image. We did not release this film to tell people how far Bangchak has gone in taking care of the society or the environment. Rather, we would like the story to inspire people so that they start thinking: What exactly does sustainability mean?"
But does the appeal to emotion undercut the reality that Bangchak is still in the oil and gas and refinery business, which are based on non-renewable fossil fuels? Also, does the glowing role of sunlight in the anniversary video set the stage for the company in terms of solar energy?
Chaiwat said that Bangchak has taken "petroleum" out of the company's name since 2017. While oil and gas still make up the company's core businesses, it has diversified to embrace green power, bio-based products and innovation over the years.
"When it comes to sustainability, solar power is an alternative source but not the sole solution. Nor are EVs. Indeed, there is no single answer. The road towards greenovation or sustainability involves a process -- research and development as well as innovation -- to make things better. And all of us must get involved," Chaiwat said.