What British Petroleum Needs to Do — Now and in the Future

Anthony Marsella

As British Petroleum seeks to develop a favorable image in response to the Gulf Oil disaster, it would be wise to recognize a simple fact: the American people doubt that BP will act in good faith in addressing the disaster it has created.

The American people are increasingly fearful that, like so many corporate offenses of the past, BP may escape blame or financial restitution for the environmental, economic, legal, and medical problems of this disaster.

Recall those corporate-related disasters of the past few decades (e.g., Bhopal-Union Carbide, Enron, Massey Energy Mining, Exxon Valdez, Vivendi, the Wall Street collapse, World Com). Twenty years later, law suits are still being contested from the Exxon Valdez; Massey Energy has had scores of violations and yet continues to operate, and the Wall Street perpetrators –organizations and individuals — continue to thrive financially.

The past is prologue. The American people have reason to question whether the BP Gulf Oil crisis will be resolved in a timely and fair manner. For this reason, they are angry and distrustful of corporate and government actions and seek a more active and comprehensive response from BP and government offices.

If British Petroleum wishes to reduce the growing antagonism toward its actions, it should do the following:

(1) Establish a $15 billion dollar escrow account in the United States as a sign of good faith that it intends to accept responsibility for the tragedy and will pay all appropriate legal costs.

(2) As a sign of their remorse and guilt, reduce the salaries of key executives for the next decade. Donate those savings to the development of alternative forms of energy.

(3) Immediately establish on-site compensation offices with large staffs to provide support funds to all those people, agencies, and offices affected by the disaster.

(4) Offer sizeable financial compensation to each worker who died as a result of the oil rig’s explosion and collapse. Do so with no further delay. And provide immediate compensation and the assumption of costs for all those who survived and must now live with injuries and enduring trauma.

(5) Set up and fund wildlife rescue teams throughout the Gulf area to save and rehabilitate wildlife.

(6) Stop all PR efforts designed to mitigate BP responsibility. Instead, admit guilt, responsibility, and remorse on a consistent public basis.

(7) Cease and desist from all efforts to limit BP liabilities by influencing government officials and offices to develop or to interpret regulations favorable to BP.

(8) Fund long-term State and University programs in the Gulf States directed toward monitoring and assessing damage; developing solutions to environmental, economic, legal, and medical problems; and educating the public about the causes and consequences of this disaster.

(9) Join with other oil corporations involved in off-shore drilling wells to develop new and improved technologies and improved safety regulations for oil drilling on the seas and on the land.

These recommendations constitute a unique set of suggestions that establish new standards for corporate responsibility. If accepted, British Petroleum will have the opportunity to emerge as a global leader and corporate model of citizenship. While the financial costs may be high, it must be remembered that the disaster now stands as the most destructive consequence of corporate failure to choose safety and responsible technical practices over profit. BP has a choice: It can emerge from this catastrophe as a model for corporate responsibility, or it can join that list of corporations whose actions live in infamy.

PsySR Past President Anthony Marsella is Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii. Although retired, he continues to lecture and write on the many social challenges facing our global community. Tony can be reached directly at marsella@hawaii.edu.

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