In actuality, BP is one of the most controversial companies based in the UK. Being of the largest companies operating in the oil industry, the company has suffered recently from the enormous public pressure because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, the response of the company to the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico was relatively fast but its effectiveness is still questionable. In fact, the adequate response of BP to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was essential for the maintenance of the brand image and to avoid exorbitant financial losses. However, effects of BP’s response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is quite controversial because, on the one hand, the public image and financial position of the company have deteriorated consistently since the catastrophe, whereas, on the other hand, the company has managed to avoid bankruptcy that was forecasted by many experts (Breitsohl, 2009) shortly after the oil spill. In such a situation, it is important to conduct the study of BP’s response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to understand effects of the catastrophe and BP’s response on the further development of the company. This study will give insight into the impact of the catastrophe on the public image of BP and effects of its response on its public image and marketing position and this study will be helpful for understanding of corporate behaviour in response to disasters or accidents that may affect the corporate public image and reputation.
2 Background information
The current study focuses on the case of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP was responsible for the oil spill that has had a disastrous impact on the environment and economy of the region. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that BP attempted to hide information about the scope of the disaster at the beginning but eventually the company could not hide the truth and had to respond to the catastrophe. The company conducted close cooperation with local authorities and governments of countries of the Gulf of Mexico. In such a situation, the oil spill has undermined the public image of the company consistently because the public became aware of the full extent of risks and threats associated with operations and business conducted by BP. The company had to change the public opinion and to help the region to recover after the catastrophe.
In this respect, the company had to contribute to the economic recovery of the region. The economic restoration included BP’s payoffs made by the company to the US and affected states. In this regard, the financial contribution of BP in the restoration of affected areas was very important. The company spent $14 billion on the restoration of the region affected by the oil spill. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the company spent considerable funds on the maintenance of its positive public image and on the communication with the public to show that BP is responsible company that can respond for effects of its errors. The economic contribution of BP was significant but still it was BP that was responsible for the catastrophe and the financial resources spent by the company on the economic restoration of the region were still perceived by the public as insufficient. Therefore, the economic restoration and funding of this restoration by BP was rather an essential condition of the maintenance of its positive public image as a responsible company than an effective tool that could help the company to gain the public support and recognition of its contribution to the overall elimination of negative effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
In this regard, leaders and top executives of BP proved to be unable to cope with negative effects of the catastrophes, while the company’s leaders failed to gain the public support to maintain a positive public image of the company. The attitude of top executives to business reveals the high level of individualism in the contemporary business environment. Policy makers, who are top executives and owners of businesses, are concerned with their own interests solely, whereas needs and wants of employees, clients, shareholders, and the world at large are ignored. At this point, it is worth reminding the disaster in the Mexican Gulf on the oil platform belonging to BP, which proved that benefits of the company were more important than environmental safety concerns.
Therefore, the contemporary business is highly individualistic and interests of other people and the world are secondary for owners of business and top executives of companies. As a result, accounting scandals are frequent in the contemporary business environment because top executives violate existing ethical norms in the pursuit of wealth and prosperity. However, they often forget about the fact that the violation of fundamental principles of morality, basic ethical norms and rules is closely intertwined with the violation of existing legal norms (Belasen, 146). Therefore, top executives and policy makers often face a risk of legal liability in case of the violation of legal norms. At this point, it is important to stress that often policy makers start with the violation of ethical norms but they cannot stop in pursuit of their own wealth and steadily they slip from the violation of ethical norms to the violation of legal norms. In addition, ethical norms often have the legal framework and their violation implies the violation of existing legal norms.
Obviously, such response and the public reaction on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the company’s response needs the detailed study because the case of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reveals the full extent to which companies may affect environment and economy of regions and the entire world. In such a context, the study may rise a number of legal and ethical issues along with economic issues because compensations paid off by BP are probably not enough to cover economic effects of the catastrophe. Therefore, the study should investigate economic effects of the catastrophe and the effectiveness of the response of BP to understand whether the response was adequate or not that will reveal the fact whether the contemporary business can be responsible or not in relation to citizens and international community.
3.1 Subjects of the study
The subjects of the current study should be individuals that have the direct relation to consequences of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because they will help to understand the effect of the oil spill on the regional economy and environment. In addition, the involvement of subjects related to the accident and its effects will help to reveal the response of BP on the accident and its effects on the public image of the company as well as on the region. At the same time, subjects should represent different sides involved in the case. This means that subjects of the study should be not only representatives of the company, but also representatives of the local population, public, non-profit organizations and government agencies should be involved in the study as well.
This is why the current study will involve managers of the company. The involvement of BP’s managers is essential for understanding policies conducted by the company. The study should pay a particular attention to the study of security issues and safety in the workplace environment. The study should focus on the detailed analysis of issues related to safety and security policies conducted by BP. In this regard, managers can help the researcher to understand current policies of BP as well as policies conducted by BP before the accident. The latter will give insight to the understanding of possible causes and factors that contributed to the catastrophe and resulted in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Furthermore, the study will involve the authorities, including representatives of EPA and OHSA of the US. The involvement of the local authorities and representatives of EPA and OSHA as well as other agencies may be very helpful in relation to the study of effects of the BP’s response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, the study of effects of the company’s response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is important and state and government agencies of the US as well as other countries affected by the accident will help to understand the interaction between the company and governments of the affected countries. The involvement of government agencies can help to reveal the effectiveness of the BP’s response in relation to the accident and its cooperation with government agencies.
In addition, the study should involve representatives of public, non-profit organizations, including environmental organizations. In fact, public, non-profit organizations, including environmental ones will help the researcher to reveal actual environmental effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the effectiveness of the BP’s response to the accident. In such a way, the study will reveal the overall effectiveness of the company’s response in terms of the environmental impact of the accident and efforts made by the company to minimize negative environmental effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The accident’s impact on the environment is as significant as its impact on the economy of the region and public organizations will help to provide the researcher with important information on the actual environmental effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Finally, the study will involve the local population and businessmen. The involvement of the local population and businessmen will reveal the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and consequences of the BP’s response on the accident on the socioeconomic life of the local population. The local population and businessmen can provide facts about actual changes that have occurred since the accident and how BP’s response could have or did minimize negative effects of the accident on their socioeconomic life.
3.2 Population selection
The population selection should be conducted carefully to provide the broad representation of subjects to minimize the risk of biases and prejudiced attitude of subjects to the accident and, therefore, inadequate and subjective conclusions being made by the researcher. The subject of the study should represent different gender, race, social standing, and economic status. For instance, managers of BP represent the middle class, whereas the local population involved in the study can involve different classes, from lower- to middle- and upper-class. In such a way, the study will minimize the risk of the prejudiced attitude from the part of subjects. The diversity of subjects will allow the researcher to develop effective the study that can help to make the study objective and reliable. Therefore, the study will present diverse views and attitudes toward effects of the BP’s response on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
3.3 Qualitative methods of study
Qualitative methods will be effective in terms of the current study because they will reveal the personal opinion of each subject of the study to the BP’s response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that interviews are effective because they contribute to obtaining detailed information on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the BP’s response involving different subjects. Therefore, the researcher will obtain diverse responses from different subjects. Moreover, interviews allow the researcher to expand the scope of questions that the researcher prepared before the beginning of the interview that will allow the researcher to obtain more detailed information about the study. In addition, interviews help the researcher to collect the information and diverse views, which the researcher has to analyze and process the collected information objectively. After that, the researcher can make definite conclusions on the effectiveness of the BP’s response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Interviews will be conducted face-to-face, by phone and online, depending on the physical location of subjects.
Questionnaires will involve the same subjects but, unlike interviews, questionnaires will be conducted online because this is the effective way to conduct questionnaires and allows the researcher to collect the information fast. Questionnaires will involve questions related to the essence of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and effects of the BP’s response to the accident. In fact, questionnaires will contain standard sets of questions. The researcher should compare them and responses of the subjects of the study. On collecting responses and comparing them, the researcher should process the collected information and make conclusions concerning the essence of the accident and its impact on the region, including environmental and socioeconomic impact. In addition, the researcher should make adequate conclusions concerning effects of the BP’s response. To put it more precisely, the researcher should identify whether the BP’s response has managed to minimize negative effects of the accident on the environment of the Gulf of Mexico and economy of the region and countries affected by the accident.
3.3.3 Focus group
Focus group may be also helpful in terms of the broad analysis of the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the BP’s response to the accident. In this regard, the focus group will involve representatives of all groups of subjects involved in the study, including managers of BP, employees of state agencies, such as EPA and OSHA, representatives of non-profit, public organizations, representatives of local population and businessmen. In such a way, the focus group will help to elaborate common conclusion on the effects of the accident and BP’s response to the accident. Subjects involved in the study should come to agreement on BP’s response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
3.4 Limitations of the study
However, the suggested methods of the study still have some limitations. In fact, questionnaires conducted online can raise the problem of the objectivity of responses because, while responding questionnaires as well as interviews online, subjects may be vulnerable to certain external influences. The study is limited to the involvement of English-speaking population, while the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico affected not only the US but also other countries but the study of the effect of the accident and BP’s response on the population of non-English speaking countries raises linguistic barriers. The elimination of linguistic barriers will need the further study that involves subjects located in Mexico and other countries of the region affected by the accident and BP’s response.
Thus, the suggested methods of the study can help to conduct the study and reveal the effectiveness of the BP’s response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the study may need the further in-depth research to assess the full scope of the impact of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the BP’s response in terms of its impact on the environment of the region and its economy. Nevertheless, findings of the current study may be helpful because they will give insights toward understanding of the impact of the accident and the BP’s response on the region.