Journal article

The BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill: Exploring the link between social and environmental disclosures and reputation risk management

1 Jan 2017

The aim of this study is to explore how social and environmental disclosures are used to manage reputation during a major incident, through the use of British Petroleum Plc's (BP) Gulf of Mexico crisis as a case study. It is argued that reputation is distinct from legitimacy and that the immediate actions undertaken by an organisation during a crisis are related to reputation management. Using a qualitative case study approach, a thematic analysis of BP's social and environmental disclosures on its website during the time period of this incident (April 21 e September 19, 2010) was undertaken to enable an understanding of the reputation risk management activities of BP. The key findings of this research revealed that BP used social and environmental disclosures on its website extensively to manage its reputation risk arising from the Gulf of Mexico crisis. The company was engrossed in providing accounts of its world class facilities and superior quality of management, diverting attention away from the severe environmental damage caused by the massive oil spill. It was observed that BP consistently used the corrective actions strategy by disclosing extensive information about its plans to solve the problem, and not its actual social and environmental actions during the disaster. The predominant reputation managing strategy used was the bolstering strategy, whereby BP stressed on its good traits when disclosing its social and environmental actions during the crisis.

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