Last week I discussed how with a little bit of help from a burgeoning audience through social media, BP could have avoided a lot of the mud-slinging being sent its way. [Read: Leveraging Social Media for CSR: An Alternative Future for BP?] This week the discussion continued as CEO Tony Hayward and Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg answered questions in Washington, and proposed a $20 billion fund for restoring businesses and the ecosystem of the affected areas. In a struggling economy, this disaster has just added what might be years to a recovery process for the Gulf of Mexico.
Vault Producer Phil Stott was at last week's World Innovation Forum. In his analysis of the event, he highlighted a key quote from speaker Jeffrey Hollender, who said, "Sustainability and green is about company culture," adding that a crucial component of that culture is the willingness by executives to listen to their employees and consumers, something that he felt was likely lacking in the cultures at Goldman and BP. However, as BP continues to get flagged for their irresponsible decisions and lack of ethical judgment, what are their roughly 80,000 employees saying?
Many surveys have proven that consumer and employee sentiments toward a company/brand don’t always match. (See a recent comparison between two surveys, conducted by McKinsey and Cone respectively, one targeting employees and the other aimed at consumers) While we don't have an answer to that yet, another question might be more easily answered: Shareholders concerns aside, what repercussions will the brand that bragged their tagline of "Beyond Petroleum" for years, accord for its executive suite?
We asked our readers what should happen to BP executives last week. Over half (52%) believe that they should either get jail time, or at the minimum, get no salary till the oil is cleaned up. Another 16% said they should be fired. No surprises there right? However, it’s the remaining third that might raise some eyebrows. They chose to go with "Nothing. Accidents Happen." Now, considering that Vault readers come from every stratosphere of the corporate world, what makes so many of them unwilling to put blame?
Some explanations that come to mind:
1) They've been in a similar situation with their company so they can understand BP's mess. Yes, maybe if you work in the finance industry or Toyota.
2) They don’t know enough about the situation to blame anyone. Environmental disaster aside, many people do continue to believe that this wasn’t all due to human error, and therefore, accidents happen.
3) Brotherhood of the C-suite? As an executive making similar decisions, the spotlight might be on you some day. Cost cutting, shrinking profit margins and a slow economy have influenced a lot of bad decision making. What happens then?
4) I can't come up with another one that doesn’t stop at simply saying "I'm being naïve."
Maybe it's time for a real discussion on how BP's actions translate into career development at the company. If we, for a minute, step away from focusing on the environmental repercussions, where do we place Hayward and gang, and more so the future for BP's ability to attract talent? For the engineers, financial analysts, researchers, communication specialists, energy workers, project managers and the many more roles that together build a global company, what does BP emblemize now for their place in the recruitment marketplace?
Strictly as an informed career professional, how much would you care?
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