Can oil companies be socially responsible? asks Ken Cohen, vice president of public and government affairs at US oil giant ExxonMobil in a post on the company’s Perspectives blog.
Cohen says his question is prompted by an article in Ethical Corporation magazine entitled “Beyond petroleum: Why the CSR community collaborated in creating the BP oil disaster” , referencing the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in April.
[…] The oil and gas industryâ€™s primary social responsibility is to provide affordable, reliable energy that is essential for human progress, and to do so in a manner that is safe and protects the environment. This is not an abstract concept â€“ weâ€™re talking here about the energy that is needed to power our homes and businesses, cook our food, and drive transport and trade. How sustainable would our society be without it?
[…] However, we realize that we should be assessed not only on our ability to bring our product to market to meet these growing needs, but also on the manner in which we do so. […] We fundamentally believe that the environmental, safety and social performance of a company is a key measure in determining its longer-term sustainability.
Powerful words, setting out ExxonMobil’s stall against the backdrop of the huge business, social and environmental issues confronting competitor BP – perhaps the entire energy industry – in the wake of Deepwater Horizon.
So can oil companies be socially responsible? I believe they can, as can any organization in any industry. I can’t see any interest that would be served, ExxonMobil’s or anyone else’s, if they were not. Why would an oil company, the biggest one in the world, not be socially responsible?
A simplistic view, to be sure. So I’m keen to see what others with greater CSR perspective and passion to articulate credible and balanced views might say in response to Cohen’s post.
Yet, as I write this post, there’s not a single comment on the ExxonMobil blog. I’ve not been able to find comments anywhere else, either, eg, on another blog. Not even on Twitter as a comment to or retweet of ExxonMobil’s tweet yesterday (which I retweeted). Doesn’t anyone have an opinion? Hard to believe. Maybe no one’s seen the post? Possible.
Looking at the Perspectives blog, you have to jump a few hurdles if you want to engage there, ie, leave a comment. It’s not an open system – you have to register – and comments are moderated (maybe there are scores of comments in the moderation queue, who knows). Still, not giant hurdles.
In any case, I think the question raises a huge topic especially in light of Deepwater Horizon. If you have an opinion, why not let ExxonMobil know it?
Related: Kristen Sukalac writes about 3 Ways the Oil Industry Could Generate Goodwill in the Gulf of Mexico and references ExxonMobil. That blog post has also been published by IABC as an opinion piece in CW Online.
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Neville, very good post. I agree that oil companies can operate responsibly. However some of them are still not prepared to speak straight. I examined Shell’s conflicted CSR motivations in the Niger Delta and the difficult issues they generate here:
I think you’re right, Paul. Transparency isn’t a word you’d tend to associate with oil companies. That may be doing some of those companies a grave injustice but the behaviours of some tar the many with the same brush in terms of negative perceptions. I was just reading about “Kazakhgate,” for instance (http://is.gd/einJV).
And btw, the post on ExxonMobil’s blog still has no comments.