British Petroleum – Using Rhetoric to Avoid the Sustainability Challenge in Its Global 2015 Sustainability Report
This thesis is a multimodal analysis of British Petroleum’s (henceforth BP) 2015 Sustainability Report. It examines how BP has used sustainability to influence stakeholder perception and how the organisation’s lack of ethical engagement is reflected in the report. It analyses the language, photographs, infographics, layout, and substance of the document. This allows for a detailed analysis of the data, and draws attention to the motivation behind BP’s use of sustainability reporting.
The thesis finds that this report does not aim to fulfil the expected goals of a sustainability report such as transparent reporting, addressing the stakeholders’ concerns, and emphasizing the importance of engaging in sustainability. Instead, one of the key findings is that BP is only intending to communicate with a very specific group of stakeholders: businesses, governments, and shareholders. Rather remarkably for a sustainability report, it does not include themes related to sustainability such as the environment, wildlife conservation, and impact on communities. Instead, the report includes those related to success, expansion, and profit. The ethics of BP’s use of sustainability reporting as a PR tool is therefore in question. It is to be noted that there is an irreconcilable conflict between the nature of BP’s activities and sustainability. After all, the nature of BP’s activities may not be compatible with sustainability reporting. As an oil and gas company, BP engages in activities that have questionable repercussions on the environment and local communities. This means that the organisation is unlikely to ever become fully committed to sustainability.
The findings of this research have implications for PR practitioners, and for organisations willing to engage in genuine sustainability. It is hoped that this research will encourage people to engage in ethical and sincere sustainability reporting in order to address the challenges faced today such as depletion of natural resources and climate change. There are justified concerns held by the public, and organisations ought to be responsible and address them thanks to sustainability reports.