BP Company: Ethical and Social Responsibility

Some of the core ethical and social responsibility issues presented by BP’s behaviour

During the investigation, it emerged that BP engineers were in a hurry to reduce costs and delay. In addition, they had also cut corners on good design, safety features, and safety tests.

Obviously, the company failed to observe the ethics of production in its drilling processes. BP had a responsibility to ensure that drilling activities and oil would not cause harm to workers or the public. In oil drilling processes, there is often an extent of danger perceived by stakeholders. The major challenge is, however, the difficulty in defining the extent of acceptability of such risks. BP could have used its resources to avert the disaster because it had learned about the risk when it noted that a blowout preventer was displaced. In short, the company’s disaster was the “product of a corporate culture that venerated risk-taking” (see the case study).

Another important factor to note from the case of BP’s disaster was conflict interest. One can evaluate business ethics from diverse perspectives. In this case, there was a conflict of interest between BP and society. BP focused on serving its interests to the detriment of employees and society. For instance, BP favoured outcomes that were good for itself, but not to employees and society. The company failed to harmonise and reconcile its conflict of interests by insisting that, “this is how it’s gonna be”, making “decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time and expense” and referring to it as “no big deal.”

An employee speaking about safety issues at BP

From an ethical perspective, any employee could have spoken about the safety issue at BP. While many could have supported the act of whistleblowing about risky activities at BP and encouraged organisational governance, the company’s culture did not support reporting acts of wrongdoing. The company did not favour good corporate governance for all stakeholders, and therefore employees knew that whistleblowing had negative repercussions.

Ideally, when employees notice a matter of safety concern, they have the responsibility and opportunity to report, but fear of reprisal from the company has prevented them from reporting safety issues about BP. Reporting could have helped BP to avoid disaster and improve its drilling practices.

Whistleblowers have moral obligations to report unethical practices about their companies. In the case of BP, many employees feel, however, they have the most to lose, including their jobs and possible retaliation from the company. Thus, they are unable to report unethical practices in the company.

One may argue that it is unlikely that an employee would report any wrongdoing in such a dehumanising organisation, which does not promote good corporate governance and ethical practices. Hence, employees may doubt their abilities to influence change and sense moral of responsibility. In this regard, BP should review its human resource practices and the protection of whistleblowers.

HRM improving the ethical and social responsibility culture of BP

BP has developed a poor culture of whistleblowing any issue that may delay drilling. The company fires and retaliates against its employees whenever they report unethical practices.

Most of the problems at BP emanate from the context in which the company views a whistleblower. According to BP, any employee who reports unethical practice could be disloyal.

HRM must encourage whistleblowing through anonymous means, offer protection and train employees on ethical practices and responsibilities. The change required must start among senior executives who retaliate against whistleblowers. This process requires HRM to define a new policy on whistleblowing, which will promote openness and integrity in the company. In some instance, it may be necessary to reward whistleblowers who report unethical drilling practices. This would show the management commitment to good corporate governance.