What should be done to improve the image of a company whose name is synonymous with environmental disaster and bribery? Exxon-Mobil’s C.E.O. Rex Tillerson faces this challenge. As C.E.O. of the largest publicly traded oil company in the world with the highest posted record profit ever in 2006 ( $39.5 billion) and revenues in excess of #377 billion, (www.boston.com)
Tillerson faces constant scrutiny from environmental groups, and high expectations for profit from shareholders. Not to mention the looming memory that he is now the head of a company that caused the single worst oil spill in United States history and almost destroyed a previously pristine environment. Rex Tillerson brings with him to this position experience in an area that his predecessors had little or no exposure to at all…global management.
The Exxon Valdez
At the center of Exxon-Mobil’s poor image are its questionable ethical performance record and a history of poor social responsibility performance, the most notable of these being the Exxon Valdez disaster. Exxon attempted to displace blame for this event on to third parties instead of accepting responsibility for the tragedy and taking immediate action to contain and clean up the spill.
Exxon also wasted precious time in responding to the severity of the spill and did nothing in the first ten days following to aid in protecting the surrounding environment from being effected by the spill. Exxon-Mobil’s attempt to dodge blame for the incident and its response, or lack thereof, did not go unnoticed by the public, environmental organizations, or law makers, drawing a literal hornet’s nest of bad publicity, governmental fines, and legal action.
It is interesting to note that in the 2006 Corporate Citizenship Report available on Exxon-Mobil’s website (www.exxon-mobil.com), the company has stated that there were no marine spills in the last two years and that they have drastically reduced the amount of non marine spills as well. The company also has a ten year guideline for the reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions and a comprehensive action plan to deal with spills when they do occur.
The most recent event to damage the ethical credibility of the company came in 2003 when its subsidiary, Mobil oil was investigated for bribing leaders in Kazakhstan and Equatorial Guinea. This, once again, brought Exxon-Mobil under scrutiny for its business practices and resulted in an even more tarnished corporate image.
On of the company’s former executive officers was convicted of tax evasion and statements he gave at that hearing prompted and investigation into the possible involvement of Mobil Oil in the kickback scheme. An Oil Consultant working for Mobil was also convicted of violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for his involvement in the bribery of Kazakh officials. (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E05E0DB1438F936A35757C0A9659C8B63)
Conclusion Exxon-Mobil, over the last twelve years, has demonstrated a lack of sound ethics and accountability for actions that will it will not be able to repair overnight. The company faces a long hard road of repairing its image and any mistakes along the way will be heavily scrutinized. According to the company’s 2006 Corporate Citizenship Report, small steps are being made to ensure that the mistakes of the past will not be revisited, and that may very well be the best approach for this company to take. By taking small steps, risk is more limited, which is in line with previous decision making, and there will be less chance that the public will view small changes in a negative way.
If the company were to make major changes and drastically market those changes, they may be viewed a just another attempt by Exxon-Mobil to sweep its past issues under the rug or try to cover up their wrongdoings. Consistently sound decision making and absolute adherence to laws and policies will have to be every day practice at Exxon-Mobil in orderb for the company to turn its tarnished image around.
References Retrieved January 25, 2008 from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E05E0DB1438F936A35757C0A9659C8B63 Retrieved January 25, 2008 from http://www.progress.org/2003/oil02.htm Retrieved January 25, 2008 from www.boston.com
Retrieved January 25, 2008 from www.exxon-mobil.com