We’ve seen it before: BP installs a new CEO and promises big change.
But it doesn’t happen; witness the continuation of BP’s horrific safety record after outgoing CEO Tony Hayward was elevated to the top spot in 2007. Hayward promised to focus “like a leaser beam” on safety. So much for that.
BP’s culture of recklessness runs deep. Cutting corners in the name of efficiency is the company’s MO. As a consequence, we saw the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 workers and came right after a consultant warned about perilous conditions at the refinery, the 2006 Prudhoe Bay pipeline spill and the current Gulf of Mexico disaster. It is clear that BP prioritizes short-term profits at the expense of worker safety and the environment.
Incoming CEO Robert Dudley must initiate a top-to-bottom reconstruction of the company and resist the urge to simply do a PR facelift of the kind favored by Hayward and his predecessor, Lord John Browne. Americans rightly demand corporate responsibility, and Dudley must deliver by fixing a broken BP culture and instituting reforms that prioritize safety and environmental stewardship. Such a commitment must be felt in the ranks of managers and employees – not simply echoed on expensive TV ads.
Just as important, Dudley owes it to the communities in the Gulf and beyond to pledge the full resources of the company to paying what is owed. Dudley must assure families harmed by the ongoing crisis that he will take no steps to shield BP’s assets from exposure to liabilities stemming from the Gulf disaster. If the company is genuine in its claim to wanting to turn the company around, this would be a good start.
Tyson Slocum is the director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.