European oil companies show increased interest in their (green) image
A recent survey of European oil companies found that environmental
concerns are at the top of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy
lists. The findings are based on replies to a survey of nine oil companies
operating in Europe conducted by the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) in Norway
in cooperation with the Stockholm Environmental Institute. The survey is part
of a wider EU-financed project investigating CSR attitudes in Europe. Responses
to the survey show that oil companies subject themselves to a number of different
CSR protocols, but find that self-imposed, ‘company specific' instruments
to be most effective.
The EU-funded project ‘Rhetoric and Realities: Analysing Corporate Social
Responsibility in Europe' (RARE), “seeks to improve the understanding of the
effectiveness of CSR as a policy instrument and how CSR can, in practice, benefit
sustainable development in the EU,” according to its website. In addition to
the oil market, RARE is focusing on the banking and fish processing sectors,
as well as on small and medium-sized companies (SMEs).
In light of increasing concerns about climate change and political instability
in oil rich regions, Elin Lerum Boasson, lead author of the survey and a Research
Fellow at FNI, found the responses from companies present in the world's
richest market of particular interest. “The most interesting finding is that
the European oil companies now clearly have come to view climate change mitigation
as the most important social and environmental issue confronting the industry,” she
The survey found that, on average, oil companies adhere to 17 CSR instruments, including Global Compact, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the Responsible Care Initiative, ISO 14001, and the Global Reporting Initiative.
However, The European Commission expects companies to strive for CSR policies above and beyond what is dictated by international law; something — it turns out — companies are not so eager to do.
Up to now, the EU has urged industry to take on ambitious measures for developing CSR policies voluntarily. “The survey indicates that this strategy has failed,” comments Ms Boasson.
Nevertheless, the survey seems to indicate that European companies are at least paying more lip service to CSR, and RARE is continuing its research in order to understand how this increased focus will result in real change.