Poor stakeholder management led to preventable mishaps such as the disasters in Alaska and Texas. Specifically, BP's defensive approach towards stakeholder management led to lavish compensation for upper level management while creating hazardous working conditions for employees and a burden on all of society in the form of rising oil prices and environmental damage.
British Petroleum was founded in 1908 and since then has rapidly grown to become the eighth largest company in the world . However, as of late, BP has come under fire for several high profile disasters, including the Texas City refinery explosion and the Prudhoe Bay oil spill.
In 2005, an explosion occurred at BP's refinery at Texas City. Fifteen employees were killed and 170 were injured in a fiasco resulting in $1.6 billion in victim compensation and millions in fines . In January of 2007, former Secretary of State, James Baker, published the Baker Report, outlining BP's failing safety standards as the reason for the incident.
In March of 2006, BP faced yet another incident when its corroded pipeline in Prudhoe Bay spilled roughly 270,000 gallons of crude oil onto the Alaskan tundra. The incident crippled its North Slope operations in the Prudhoe Bay field .
Although it is alarming that the incidents occurred due to negligence as a result of BP's defensive approach to stakeholder management, it is perhaps more disturbing that the company continues to employ this strategy in the face of severe public outrage and legal scrutiny. A defensive approach is characterized by companies who "abide strictly with legal requirements but make no attempt to exercise social responsibility beyond what the law dictates- thus they can and do act unethically" . As a result, the needs of some stakeholders are sacrificed in order to fulfill those of others.
Stakeholder Snapshot: Upper-Level Management
This defensive approach has been implemented by upper level management because it helps serve their interests. Managers have the responsibility to make decisions affecting the company's performance. They also delegate the amount of resources spent on various stakeholder groups, including themselves. In return for their work, executives at BP expected financial rewards, such as high salaries, bonuses, and stock options. At BP, executive compensation is largely performance-based with an emphasis on financial metrics . By employing a defensive approach that focused on maintaining bare minimum standards, BP was able to cut costs and thereby increase profits.
CEO John Browne came into BP in 1995 with the goal of increasing profits by cutting costs significantly. Following BP's merger with Amoco in 1998, executives announced an aggressive plan to cut costs by about $4 billion by the end of 2001, double earlier projections; many managers felt this target to be overly ambitious . Even rank-in-file employees felt pressure under the mantra of cutting costs by 10% . Sir Browne explained that these goals aimed at a "very significant improvement in underlying performance" during a time when cost-cutting was the easiest way to boost an oil company's bottom line .
To the delight of BP's stockholders, company financial performance has increased due to these cost reductions. The market capitalization has increased by a factor of four and annual dividends have also risen since 2001 (Exhibit 1). Upper level managers have also been well compensated for BP's financial success. BP's executives are some of the highest paid in the industry, with Sir Browne making more than CEOs at both Chevron and Exxon-Mobil (Exhibit 2).
Stakeholder Snapshot: Employees
A great deal of the backlash associated with such hard line cost cutting was borne by employees in the form of unsafe work environments. BP has taken the position that it "can get 100 per cent of the task completed with 90 per cent of the resources" . BP has come under fire in...