Sunday, July 29, 2012

Social Responsibility

In his latest blog posted in July, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski is wondering if the world is becoming more responsive to social responsibility. Many organizations work with charities, do outstanding donations or other means to give back to society which makes them look socially responsible. This is all good and it should be that way, but there is more to social responsibility. The question is, what are companies doing to embrace social responsibility in the way they conduct business? For example, we all remember BP's oil spill. BP has always claimed to be the front runner in green fossil fuel production. They were definitely proud of their position as socially responsible which won them a few awards on the side. However, all this could not prevent the disaster from happening. Washington Post's Chrystia Freeland writes on an article in 2010, "...But the gulf oil spill and the financial crisis have taught us, rather brutally, that the heart of the relationship between business and society doesn't lie with the charitable deeds that companies do in their off-hours but whether they are doing their day jobs in ways that help -- or hurt -- the rest of us."
Could the oil spill disaster been prevented? According to investigations, BP workers failed to consult the engineer, who was on the rig, about the results of the pressure test. The test was misread and the decision was to move ahead with temporary abandonment of the site. I wonder if BP conducted FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis) on the possible risks associated with the rigs. I would certainly hope so since the possibility of a disaster happening is higher. Why did the workers misread the results? Why wasn't the experienced engineers notified? These are surely after the fact questions to get to the root cause of the problem which is too late. If these questions were asked before and procedures were put in place requiring training and full compliance, disaster could have been prevented. BP is now doing whatever it takes to build back their reputation in society. Certainly, there were many lessons learned and the possibility of this happening again is slim, but is it still socially responsible for BP to claim itself as the greenest fossil fuel producer? It takes more than charitable donations and community hours to run a socially responsible business.