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

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Strategic CSR - BP

BP is not a company that currently features very prominently in most CSR advocates' list of favorite firms (with no one to blame but itself, by the way). The article in the url below, however, demonstrates once again that thinking about firms in terms of black and white (either good or bad) grossly oversimplifies the complexities of huge, multinational firms and the value that they create for society:
"It began with an anguished letter to an oil giant. The writer could do nothing to stop an 11-year-old girl who had joined petrol sniffers in a remote aboriginal settlement. Fearing that the child would not survive to her teens, the relative asked if the oil giant could develop a fuel that did not make sniffers high. That was nine years ago. By then, it was feared that up to 6,000 aboriginal children and adults in the impoverished desert lands of central Australia were sniffing petrol."
In response, BP developed a new low-aromatic fuel and introduced it into the Australian market with the specific purpose of solving this social problem (the article makes no mention of any performance-related benefits of the new fuel):
"First developed by BP, in response to the letter, the low-aromatic fuel, known as Opal, does not produce the 'high' of regular unleaded fuel. It was first rolled out in 2006 to scores of distant Aboriginal communities in the desert outside Alice Springs and rapidly cut the number of regular petrol sniffers."
It is worth reinforcing that this new fuel was first introduced in 2006, meaning that the process by which it was developed was initiated before that. This would have been during the "beyond petroleum" rebranding days, long since dismissed by CSR advocates due to Deep Horizon. The fuel has been so successful that the Australian government has decided to mandate the use of the low-aromatic formula in all gas sold in Australia:
"Until now, petrol stations across remote Australia have been free to decide whether they switch to the low-aromatic fuel, but because of its success, the government said [in December] that it would force those petrol sellers still holding out to switch to the new fuel."
Again, the point here is not to whitewash over BP's serious flaws (and their devastating environmental consequences), but reinforce the fact that profitable companies are complex entities that are made up of lots of good and some bad. While focusing on trying to fix the bad, we should not forget the lots of good that they bring about.
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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Anguished plea saves Aboriginal children from addiction
By Bernard Lagan
December 26, 2014
The Times