Discuss about the Business Ethics for Ethical Decision Making.
The problem of British Petroleum with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, What are/were the ethical issues involved?
British Petroleum being one of the largest Oil and Alternative Energy companies in the world, has always proposed to follow strict ethical guidelines in its business. The Oil Company has found to set confident and meaningful target regarding the issue to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and developed various alternative sources of energy such as solar power generation. BP has also showed its contribution towards reducing the greenhouse gases that result in Global warming. Between the year 1990 and 2010, all their practices had the image of an environmentally friendly company that keeps focusing in making the world green.
In the recent scenario, there have been many actions from the Company’s side that are regarded as extremely unethical. The incidents such as Alaskan oil Spill, the treatment done on the Colombian farmer, refinery fire at the Texas City and the explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, all resulted in creating an unethical approach that contrasted the ethical and corporate image of the Company. The oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico created huge devastating effect on nature and environment. This was the incident that marked the unethical and profit making intension of the Company and created a debatable situation. Many environmentalists and social workers fought against the ill approach made by the world recognized petroleum company and raised question on the ethical consideration of the company and the actual CSR reporting that the company does.
20th April 2010, undersea oil well blew out 50 miles off the Louisiana coast and resulted in the disaster that had many levels to unfold. The Deepwater Horizon drilling killed 11 workers and resulted in spilling of 4.9 million gallons of crude oil in the water before BP could cap the wellhead to stop the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico (Ratheesh, Berk & McGorry, 2014). BP had reported that they have already spent $14 billion on the process of cleaning and restoration and bringing down the Gulf in the situation prior to the disaster. BP commented that no other company has ever such repair to any kind of industrial damage. On the opinion of various environmentalists, it has been pointed out that BP might have done a lot to remove the visible spilled oil found floating on the water but they have done very little to compensate the damage of the marine life and the ecosystem. Three year after the spill, the damage is still evident and the impact of the man made disaster still showed several negative impacts on the environment.
The actual rate of leakage of petroleum from the ocean floor has been restricted to measure. In fact, media and press were also restricted to access to the site to report about the disaster and its after effect. The Obama government that fights for transparency and right action did not allow raising the major question behind this degrading act on nature (Ferrell & Fraedrich, 2015). This also created a serious note on the ethical approach towards society. BP’s ethics cannot be considered as extremely absolutist or relativist because they are too extremist and cannot be applicable to the real world perspective. It can be said that the ethical approach is somewhat plurarist and aims rather to make profit than actual morality. BP has failed to remained conscious about their ethical practice and demonstrated categorical imperative in the decision making process. This approach of them has also failed to consider the stakeholders and their role in the Company (Ardichvili et al., 2012). The Ethical practice of British Petroleum is extremely ambiguous and is open to various conflicting perspectives.
Considering what has been pointed out by Sebastiani, Montagnini and Dalli, (2013), that all these activities helped the Company to reach the point where the Company is and being the number one in the world but conversely as commented by Greenwood, (2013), it is also important to consider the ethical policies for the business. The Company has its own ‘progressive approach to environmental protection’. The Company had set targets and showed its progressive approach towards the protection of environment. The Company had showed positive approach adhering to Human Rights regulations and always ensured that the Company follows all kinds of operation and ethical consideration. The Zero tolerance policy against any kind of bribery or gift facilitation payment has pleaded its name to the United Nations Global Combat (Carroll & Buchholtz, 2014). BP had even collaborated with Red Cross to gain financial support and demonstrated itself as a committed ethical company.
British Petroleum had always tried to portray the image of the Company as beyond Petroleum by the means of altering the meaning of environmental issues. The petroleum company has showed various means of their ethical consideration and their responsibilities towards decisions and policies. The massacre that occurred in the year 2010 questioned the existence of such ethical practices from the Company’s side. As pointed out by Carroll & Buchholtz, (2014), that there occurred a dilemma to understand whether the decisions and policies were mere business ethics or a kind of corporate social responsibility. Destructing environment and killing of people are definitely unethical instances that contradicted the Human Rights and showed the other side of responsibility of the Company. Supporting the appropriateness of the ethical consideration, it has been pointed out by Miller, Goyal and Wice, (2015), a company rather than pursuing profit should highlight their ruthless and unethical behaviour that was witnessed by the world in the recent scenario.
However, the recent scenario has thrashed the image of a responsible and ethical industry of the world. The image of the Company was demolished with the single incident took place at the Gulf of Mexico. If the normative ethical theories, traditional theories of Consequentiality and the ‘Ethics of Duties’ are considered then these exemplary theories demonstrated a contrasting nature of business ethics that was identified. According to the traditional ethical theory of Utilitarianism, it provides an insightful perspective of the ethical practices of BP. The Federal court has also found BP responsible for the degrading impact of water environment that BP has shown (Karppinen & Oinas-Kukkonen, 2013). The main ethical issue that arises regarding the oil spill is the life of the marine animals that was adversely affected. Hundreds of metre deep in the ocean, the effect of the oil spill has drastically affected the marine world.
By the end of the discussion it can be said that British Petroleum has violated the ethical consideration that a company should undertake. It has contradicted the ‘Rule Utilitarianism’ that has contradicted human rights of the employees as well as degraded the condition of the environment. Apart from this situation, the company did not take any kind of severe approach to improve the condition of the water body as well as the declined condition of the water life. The marine life has suffered a lot as a result of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that can never be compensated or recovered. The question still remained whether the Company has certain ethical guidelines that the company follows in its business. Using the ethical guidelines only for the sake of marketing is not acceptable at all. The incidents have created a negative impact on the ethical approach undertaken by the Company. If the ethics of duties are also considered, BP has failed to show its ethical approach. Therefore, it can be said that the ethical considerations can be analyzed on the motivation and the outcome of the situation rather than portraying it publicly.
Ardichvili, A., Jondle, D., Kowske, B., Cornachione, E., Li, J. & Thakadipuram, T., (2012). Ethical cultures in large business organizations in Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Journal of Business Ethics, 105(4), pp.415-428.
Carroll, A. B., & Buchholtz, A. K. (2014). Business and society: Ethics, sustainability, and stakeholder management. Nelson Education.
Ferrell, O. C., & Fraedrich, J. (2015). Business ethics: Ethical decision making & cases. Nelson Education.
Greenwood, M. (2013). Ethical analyses of HRM: A review and research agenda. Journal of Business Ethics, 114(2), 355-366.
Karppinen, P. & Oinas-Kukkonen, H., (2013), April. Three approaches to ethical considerations in the design of behavior change support systems. InInternational Conference on Persuasive Technology (pp. 87-98). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
Miller, J.G., Goyal, N. & Wice, M., (2015). Ethical Considerations in Research on Human Development and Culture. In The Oxford Handbook of Human Development and Culture.
Ratheesh, A., Berk, M., & McGorry, P. D. (2014). Ethical Consideration for Treating At-Risk Populations. Bipolar Disorder in Youth: Presentation, Treatment, and Neurobiology, 133.
Sebastiani, R., Montagnini, F., & Dalli, D. (2013). Ethical consumption and new business models in the food industry. Evidence from the Eataly case.Journal of business ethics, 114(3), 473-488.