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The PR consequences of business pollution

Monday, February 03, 2014   by: Greener Ideal

Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Pollution in all its various forms is one major environmental and health hazard, with manifold deleterious effects on people’s overall psychological and physical well being as well as the preservation of natural resources. It may hence trigger or aggravate chronic diseases, engender extinction of species, degrade the quality of soil, enhance the natural greenhouse effect or expedite ozone layer depletion. In most cases, industrial companies and small businesses in specific fields bear responsibility for bulk of water, soil or air pollution. When the culprit is indeed a business, the relationship with the media as well as the general public is at stake if ill-managed.

Public response in the aftermath of business pollution

When pollution occurs following toxic waste dumped into different water bodies or carbon dioxide emissions into the air and businesses are identified as culprits, the public often regards them with contempt and demand immediate measures to palliate the adverse effects of pollution. After all, in their eyes, the guilty company is the public enemy number one that made the vibrant green leaves wither and die and reduced a lush green grass lawn to a dead lawn patch. What is more, the media coverage following the pollution incidents is extremely high, television channels and online publications alike abounding in feature stories and interviews with concerned activists or ordinary citizens who reprobate the company’s environment contamination and demand it to assume full responsibility for the incidence and act immediately to curb its short and long-term effects.

Lack of transparency: A conflict trigger

In the wake of pollution caused by industrial activity, most guilty companies display an utter lack of transparency and a reserved attitude when determining the reasons behind the unfortunate accident or the most appropriate safeguard measures to adopt to considerably reduce the likelihood of further incidences. For instance, the investigation following the Yellowstone River oil spill did not run as smooth as everybody would have expected it too, partly because the culprits, Exxon Mobil, has prevented reporters as well as some state environmental officials from attending joint command sessions held to come up with the best solutions to fix the 40000 gallon pipeline rupture and partly because of the company’s reluctance to respond to the public queries about the long-term effects the spill would have on the environment as well as their health. Likewise, when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in 2010, BP’s representatives shrouded the preliminary investigations in secrecy. Moreover, when presented with solid evidence, they tried to restrict public access to it and shrink all responsibility for the ensuing damage. In both cases, the lack of transparency and the obvious attempt to tamper with the disaster evidence fuelled mistrust and sheer public outrage, compromising the companies’ public credibility and hence marring their chances of regaining the general public’s vote of confidence.

A pollution control department: A bulwark against public relations related conflicts

While not many companies agree to go green to answer to the environmentalists’ calls for a major reduction in pollution, they often show deep interest in meeting their environmental legal obligations. They are often fully aware of the fact that miscommunication and strained relationships with the media and the general public arise from a reluctance or lack of interest in enforcing better environmental policies within the company. If the pollution control department is absent or lacks constancy and professionalism, public relation strategies are doomed to failure. Unfortunately, despite raised awareness about the consequences of surreptitious behavior, it may happen that companies involved in pollution-related scandals fail to comply with the enforced environment regulations and do their best to dodge them. When their breach of conduct is exposed, public relations suffer! In view of the growing advocates of a ‘go green’ lifestyle, companies responsible for pollution face great challenges in regaining public appreciation and respect. It takes honesty, respect and guts to acknowledge their mistakes and make amendments for them to avert public scorn and rebuke!

Joshua Turner is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to business. In this article, he describes the public relations consequences of environmental pollution and aims to encourage further study with a public relations masters degree.



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