Leverages Corporate Social Responsibility
to Cover Unethical Practices
March 17, 2013
Corporate Social Responsibility 690
Southern New Hampshire University School of Business
Dr. Katrina Kerr
As business and society have become more intertwined, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a widely recognized business discipline and is now viewed by most companies as a necessary component in conducting business. According to a 2010 survey, administered by PR specialists Julia Bonner and Adam Friedman, of the New York Base Firm Friedman and Associates, the number of companies engaged in CSR reporting had increased exponentially. In 1999, fewer than 500 companies issued CSR reports, compared to over 3,500 in 2010 (Newell, 2012). The increased focus on CSR and sustainability within the business community has spurred greater transparency and the inclusion of more stakeholder views in the business decision making process. While most businesses have leveraged CSR for the greater good of both society and their companies, some have shamelessly used it as a commercial mask to increase profits and cover unethical behavior. University of Michigan, Associate Professor of Strategy, Aneel Karnani was quoted in Terry Kosdrosky’s article, Corporate social responsibility: Is it a boon or a boondoggle?, as saying, “When there is a conflict between business and social interests CSR serves the purpose of greenwashing. Companies say they do things, but they don't actually do very much. This is much worse. This is CSR being hijacked by companies to hide the fact that they're not socially responsible and they're not achieving social objectives. I think there are many instances of greenwash” (Kosdrosky, retrieved from, http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/27187/Corporate-social-responsibility-boon , para.5)
Professor Karnani’s thoughts have been confirmed. According to an article by Adam Kingsmith entitled, Greenwashing: The Corporate Exaggeration of Environmental Consciousness, North America’s premier environmental marketing firm, Terrachoice, found in a recent survey that 98% of the 2,219 companies surveyed in the United States and Canada were guilty of some greenwashing practices (Kingsmith, October, 2012, retrieved from http://www.theinternational.org/articles/275-greenwashing-the-corporate-exaggeration, para. 30). The Guardian’s environmental correspondent Lucy Aitken was quoted in Kingsmith’s article as saying, “The companies that are making the biggest strides internally tend to be the most bashful in their communications, while those that are most vocal have the least to say.” (Kingsmith, October, 2012, retrieved from http://www.theinternational.org/articles/275-greenwashing-the-corporate-exaggeration, para.11). Clearly, there is a need for businesses to be more accountable and transparent in how they communicate about their CSR practices, but there is also a need for governments, NGOs and individuals to be more aware of the differences between what companies are saying and what they are actually doing. The following transcript will present research that examines how oil giant, British Petroleum (BP) positively portrays its CSR activities to the general public, contrary to some of its actual unethical business practices that have recently been publicized.
What BP Espouses
BP is a British multinational oil and gas company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the third-largest energy company and fourth-largest company in the world measured by 2011 revenues. Operating in more than 80 countries, BP produces approximately 3.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day and operates roughly 21,800 service stations worldwide.
As a giant oil company, BP knows full well that their business operations are not...