British Petroleum and the BTC pipeline: Turkish delight or Russian roulette?
Q1. What are the main ethical issues and dilemma BP faces in this case?
A project of such magnitude has raised all sorts of concerns on the part of campaigns and civil society groups :
1- Significant environmental impacts through the disruption caused during the building phase concerning the coating of the pipelines and the risks of leakages, especially in Georgia, where oil spills might have impact the country's strategic water resources.
2- Concerns that the pipeline runs through earthquake zones and leakages could not be possibly avoided.
3- Prospective relocation of at least 30,000 civilians along the route of the route of the pipeline during the construction phase.
4- On the political level, with civil unrest and wars in the region, the pipeline passed only within a few miles by the war torn area of Nagorno-Karabakh – the project had always been accompanied by considerable fears of terrorist attacks.
5- Countries that the pipeline is supposed to pass through had very high levels of corruption and bureaucracy.
Q2. How would you evaluate BP's approach to the social, environmental and economic impacts of the project for local communities? Assess the approach from the perspective of utilitarianism and deontology first. Will the assessment differ from the rights and justice based perspective?
BP has been a well known company embracing sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) with regards to renewable energy, climate change, human rights, and corruption prevention. BP sets up a "Regional Sustainability Development Program (RSDP)" to proactively address critical social, ethical and environmental issues:
1. Environmental Investment Programme aimed at dealing with ecological issues.
2. Community Investment Programme with a budget of about $20m, mostly addressed social issues during the construction phase.
3. Long term regional Development Initiative which has a similar budget of about $25m and designed to accompany the project over a ten year life span after its opening.
I think that the supportive program BP had submitted on the social, environmental, and economic level is theoretically accepted and especially in the early stages of implementing the project, but BP must focus more on the implementation process and the operation mechanism later on, coordinating and following up the process of these programs efficiently and transparently.
According to utilitarianism perspective, an action is morally right if it results in the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people affected by the action. So in this situation and focusing solely on the great consequences of BP project we can implement this theory successfully especially when evaluating the great results from BP project on the economic development in countries that pipelines will pass through.
According to the Deontological perspective, '' An action is considered morally good because of some characteristic of the action itself and not because the product of the action is good. Deontological ethics holds that at least some acts are morally obligatory regardless of their consequences for human welfare''. (www.britannica.com). When applying this theory on BP situation i believe that they took initiative steps leading to a fairly immediate impacts by proactively addressing social, ethical and environmental issues. On the Rights and Justice perspective, the company did address several rights, but was later on accused for violating human rights and involved in different corrupted practices.
Q3. This case raises questions about the scope of responsibility for a Western MNC operating in environments with corruption and poor governance. What is your opinion on how far a company such as BP in this case should go? Can they really be made responsible for the actions of local officials and governments? Try to base your answer on arguments derived from one or more ethical theories.
BP operates in a world where there are different types of governments that have different levels of efficiency, transparency, and corruption. It would be inappropriate to expect that they should be made totally responsible for what governments does, because it can never be completely their responsibility and in their full control. But in this situation BP must have significant influence on the policies they work with and related to their fields, while giving them no excuse working them out in an unethical manner.
Q4. What is the appropriate way for BP to respond to its ongoing criticism? Base your answer on the contemporary ethical theories, in particular virtue ethics, discourse ethics, and postmodern ethics.
BP can emphasize on the point that it has been one of the most socially responsible company, and implying that it would never go against the broader social good or disturb the environmental balance.
They should also defend them self by pointing that BTC pipeline will generate high and sustainable income for the countries, better employment opportunities and help in meeting people demand. Also being a responsible organisation, they should let people know that it is taking all preventive measures and procedures to avoid any disaster such as oil spillage or water pollution.