Phillips 66 Senior Vice President Discusses Business Ethics with Students

"Values create value."

That was the theme of a lecture delivered Monday by Jay Churchill, senior vice president of Health, Safety, Environment and Projects for Phillips 66, to students at LSU's College of Engineering.

Churchill, who serves as the company’s executive sponsor of the school, from which Phillips 66 has so far recruited nearly 90 graduates who work in engineering and business positions, explained ethics is about far more than staying out of trouble.

“Ethics deals with questions of integrity and trust such as: What do we believe in? How should we conduct ourselves? And how should we treat each other?” he asked the crowd. 

In business, he noted, the same principles of integrity and trust apply, but the situations can be more complex.

“People face ethical choices in their relationships with a range of constituents–not only colleagues, but also customers, suppliers, investors, government officials and communities," he said. "In business, we have to ask ourselves: Is the course of action we want to take legal? Is it ethical? Will it be acceptable to our organization? And is it compatible with our mission, values and policies?”

To convey the practical aspects of operating ethically, Churchill focused on the ways Phillips 66 upholds its reputation as a company with the highest standards of business ethics and conduct.

“It all starts with our culture,” he said. “We believe that culture, more than rules and policies, determines how companies behave, especially over the long run. That’s because human conduct is more complicated and variable than any law or process can encompass or predict. I’m not saying that rules don’t matter, in fact they matter a great deal–only that ethics goes far beyond following rules.”

Churchill, who’s been with Phillips 66 for 37 years, emphasized the values of safety, honor and commitment, noting that they describe how we treat others–colleagues, customers, shareholders, communities–and how we want to be treated in return.

“We want everyone to go home safe, every day, and we strive for zero injuries," he said. "If we can’t do something safely, we simply won’t do it. And everyone at Phillips 66 has the authority and the responsibility to stop any job they believe to be unsafe.”

The same is true for honor and commitment, he added.

“Phillips 66 people can be counted on to do the right thing–always," he said. "But we don’t leave this to chance, because in some situations, doing the right thing may not be obvious. So we operate with a Code of Business Ethics and Conduct. Our code requires that every employee complete an ethics compliance certification each year. We also teach people about their compliance obligations and how to deal with risk areas or grey areas that affect our business.”

What's more: “We’re inspired to achieve the highest levels of performance in everything we do. But at Phillips 66, it’s not enough to deliver results–even great results. You have to deliver results the right way–with an emphasis on integrity, accountability and collaboration. For us, the how is as important as the what.”

At the conclusion of the lecture, Churchill entertained questions from students, including "Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self?"

His response was three-fold. “No. 1, feedback is more powerful when you do the asking. There’s power in asking, and it shows you are open to change. It also creates more of a coaching relationship.” Second, he said: “When you begin work at a company, have the thirst to learn every day and improve yourself, and reach out to as many people as possible because that’s where you will tap into a wealth of information.”

His third point was that change can be challenging for everyone. “Change takes place one habit at a time. Find simple things that you can do to help you change. At Phillips 66, to instill the habit of safety, we start all of our meetings with a safety moment to keep awareness up and to think about how to improve our performance.”

Churchill closed the discussion with a quotation often attributed to Frank Outlaw, the founder of a supermarket chain: “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”


For more information, or for a copy of the presentation materials, contact Sydni Dunn at or at 225-578-5706.