Positive ratings of BP as environmentally responsible suggest its rehabilitation is underway

When BP posted a $1.4bn loss this week (once oil price fluctuations are taken into account), many analysts pointed to the role played by the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The company announced this week that a further $847 million has been set aside to pay the costs incurred by that disaster.
Yet GlobeScan’s Radar 2012 global public opinion data indicates that BP’s response to the spill may be allowing it to recover lost ground in public esteem faster than many had predicted. The British firm emerges at or near the top of the list of firms considered to be environmentally responsible. Globally, BP is one of the top twenty most-mentioned corporations when people are asked to name a large company that is a leader in environmental issues.
In the UK, moreover, BP is the firm most frequently mentioned as being environmentally responsible (6%), and in the US it is the second most frequently mentioned (5%), behind only General Electric. Note that no company is cited by more than 4% of global respondents (due to the wide diversity of national firms mentioned) and 44% of people globally, and that higher proportions still in the UK and USA could not name, or chose not to name, an environmentally responsible company.
This uptick in public perception is welcome news for the embattled company, trading as it does in a market driven by more than tangible assets. The reasons given by respondents for naming BP as a responsible company indicate that it has benefitted from low expectations for corporate responsibility in general, and oil company behavior in particular. The unstated assumption is that companies will not clean up their mess, but will “cut and run” once profits are threatened.
While many undoubtedly still see the company as an environmental villain, these figures suggest that paying substantial compensation to those affected by the spill, and pouring resources into the clean-up effort in the Gulf of Mexico—and being seen to do these things—has enabled BP to cut through public cynicism and start to rebuild its reputation.
Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 1, 2012
This post was written by former GlobeScan Research Director, Sam Mountford.