On April 20, 2010 the BP oil spill occurred and is recorded as being the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history. The initial rig explosion was said to have killed 11 people and injured 17 others. The coastlines of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida were all affected, totaling 16,000 mile stretch of shoreline. Many animals were reported dead, some of which were already on the endangered species list. There were between 17 and 39 million gallons spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. After such a large-scale disaster, how does a company go about recuperating and reconstituting the damage incurred? A company must acknowledge and take responsibility for its personal liability, regard its personal integrity as being its most valuable asset, and provide assurance that its future actions will be governed with a high degree of conscientious ethical standards in order to regain its prestige and public approval.
The first law that I have chosen from The Unwritten Laws of Business is, “Never underestimate the extent of your professional responsibility and personal liability” (King, 2008 p. 83). As a business, BP was responsible for all of the damage inflicted on the environment. Not only did the company have to take responsibly in amending all the destruction, but the top leader CEO Tony Hayward must have had a great share of the blame as well. In the legal hearing for BP Hayward, he gave an apology saying that, “We will not rest until we make it right.”
In the final line of his apology he said how the entire industry would “emerge stronger, smarter, and safer.” Ironically, he resigned as CEO of BP in September the same year of the unfortunate incident, but not before he took home a pension worth an estimated $17 million, along with stock options. Hayward wasn’t the only chief executive to step down. There were six others who stepped down as well, all with fairly large sums. BP is now under the leadership of Robert Dudley. Those who are strong supporters of corporate social responsibility (CSR), as defined by Nickels, “believe that businesses owe their existence to the societies they serve and cannot succeed in societies that fail” (Nickels). Businesses should not exist for the singular reason of pursuing maximum profit, in turn debilitating the society, but rather they should exist in order to fortify the society and protect environment as an entirety.
The second law that I have chosen from the handbook is, “Regard your personal integrity as one of your most important assets” (p. 81). Integrity could be defined as doing the right thing after you’ve done the wrong thing, and in this case this is exactly what BP tried to do when they made a deal with the U.S. government that they would set aside $20 billion toward oil cleanup and spill victims. Even though the accident occurred two years ago the damage is still being recovered and there are many animals that have continued to suffer because of it. It will probably take at least another decade before the habitat in the Gulf of Mexico is back to normal. BP’s reputation has surely suffered, especially with radical environmentalists. It is hard to say what exactly it what would entail in order for BP to gain a better reputation as a company. Not only will it take major recompense for the losses and damage, but it also may take many other more creative environmental efforts. There would have to be a complete paradigm shift or new mentality within the company, that BP possesses “a role in building communities that go well beyond simply giving back,” as expressed in the class textbook (p. 103).
The third law that I have chosen from the handbook is, “Let ethical behavior govern your actions and those of your company” (p. 84). This law from The Unwritten Laws of Business certainly parallels with the class textbook when it says, “Organizational ethics begins at the top, and the leadership and example of strong managers can help instill corporate values in employees. The majority of CEO’s surveyed recently attributed unethical employees conduct to leadership’s failure to establish ethical standards and culture” (p. 94). What is somewhat surprising is the fact that many of the CEO’s surveyed humbled themselves enough to admit to their past failures in not leading by example or setting foundational ethical principles for subordinates to follow. There are many other businesses other than BP who have made injurious product failures and tragic man-made disasters, though I have to wonder how many companies and organizations have truly made restitution for their wrongs and how many have simply avoided or underplayed the faults altogether? It starts with leaders, managers, and lay workers who have individually made the decision to adhere to ethical standards above all else, after they have done this only then can it channel into, and have an overall effect on the businesses and companies that they are representing. As stated in the class textbook, “Studies show that companies with good ethical reputations attract and retain better employees, draw more customers, and enjoy greater employee loyalty” (p. 98).
In summary, my goal was to express and communicate the seriousness of a company’s various liabilities, the importance of integrity, and lastly the necessity of recovering from mistakes by agreeing to make the appropriate amends and also by promising to apply an improved level of ethical precautions for any future business endeavors.
King, W. J. (2008). The Unwritten Laws of Business. Place of publication not identified: BN Publishing.