The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

To sign-up to receive the CSR Newsletters regularly during the fall and spring academic semesters, e-mail author David Chandler at david.chandler@ucdenver.edu


Monday, August 30, 2010

Strategic CSR - BP (I)

The dominant CSR story of the summer was, of course, BP and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This week’s three Newsletters contain some thoughts regarding various elements of this ecological disaster as it unfolded.

I don’t usually read the Letters to the Editor in newspapers, but, over the summer, the letter from the FT in the url below caught my eye because it captures an important point in a very clear and concise fashion. The letter compares the U.S. government’s response to BP and the oil spill in the Gulf with its response to the financial crisis (Issues: Financial Crisis, p240) and the taxpayer bailout:

“On the one side, an industry (financial services) is rescued from its own folly by taxpayers' money on the basis that the government was culpable for inadequately regulating the industry. And insurance companies are propped up even if they singularly failed to identify risks and planned to manage the risks. Then when it comes to oil (BP), the government dumps all the costs on to BP - even though the industry is heavily regulated, insures against risks and employs the leading experts and companies.”

It is difficult to explain the discrepancy, but two points come to mind. The first relates to an issue raised in a previous Newsletter about the visibility of the problem (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/03/opinion/03krugman.html):

“Environmentalism began as a response to pollution that everyone could see. … as visible pollution has diminished, so has public concern over environmental issues. … This decline in concern would be fine if visible pollution were all that mattered -- but it isn't, of course. In particular, greenhouse gases pose a greater threat than smog or burning rivers ever did. But it's hard to get the public focused on a form of pollution that's invisible, and whose effects unfold over decades rather than days.”

In general, people respond more viscerally to visual stimulation—oil is visible; financial deception/fraud, less so.

Second, in the oil spill, there is an identifiable enemy—BP (somehow Transocean, the firm that owned and operated the rig, and Halliburton, the firm that worked on sealing the well shortly before the spill, have escaped direct association with the event). The causes of the financial crisis, however, were much more diffuse and difficult to comprehend.

On the face of it, however, the government’s portion of the blame is similar—a lack of effective oversight. In reality, the government needs to be seen to be responding and in control of a problem with a more identifiable cause. The hypocrisy, however, is palpable.

Take care
David

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders in a Global Environment (2e)
© Sage Publications, 2011
http://www.sagepub.com/strategiccsr2e/

Instructor Teaching Site: http://www.sagepub.com/strategiccsr/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: http://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Two industries, two attitudes
141 words
15 June 2010
Financial Times
London Ed1
12
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f65e9e6c-7814-11df-a6b4-00144feabdc0.html

Friday, August 27, 2010

Strategic CSR - Welcome back!

Welcome back to the Strategic CSR Newsletter!
The first Newsletter of the Fall semester is below.
As always, your comments and ideas are welcome.

One consequence of the BP oil spill over the summer (although the trend is a more general one that is being driven by media favorites such as Walmart), is the dominance of sustainability (and, by that, I mean environmental sustainability) in the CSR debate.

This is understandable, but unfortunate. It is understandable because of the importance of global warming and the return of visible pollution to America’s shores, but it is unfortunate because the importance of CSR to the business community is so much broader than the cost-cutting benefits of sustainability.

In Strategic CSR, we deliberately emphasized the breadth of CSR, defining it as an all-encompassing business approach that invokes all aspects of operations. It is a strategic perspective of the firm, of which philanthropy plays only a minor role. Sustainability plays a larger role, but it is still only one part of a more comprehensive program.

As such, this semester, I will strive to focus on this broader perspective (perhaps the launch of the ISO 26000 CSR guidelines in October will help re-balance the debate), although I also want to comment on BP and will, undoubtedly, be influenced by the predominance of sustainability articles in the CSR coverage I read on a day-to-day basis.

Take care
David

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders in a Global Environment (2e)
© Sage Publications, 2011 http://www.sagepub.com/strategiccsr2e/

Instructor Teaching Site: http://www.sagepub.com/strategiccsr/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: http://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/

Posted by David Chandler at 7:27 AM Links to this post