This is probably the most disturbing revelation to come out of the Washington hearings: that oil companies now devote far greater time and energy to managing how they appear in the eyes of the public than they do developing an effective emergency-response plan. So we learned that ExxonMobil’s emergency-response plan has 40 pages on dealing with the media but only nine on dealing with an oil spill. The plan seems more preoccupied with the science of drafting press releases than with the science of taking practical steps in an emergency. Why BP is not very slick in an emergency, Frank Furedi, 21 JuneWe do need clarity about means and ends. One of the virtues of a Social Policy Bond regime is that it would inextricably bind policymakers to focus on ends rather than procedure. If the goal, for instance, is to avoid environmental catastrophe, then Social Policy Bonds can be issued that will target the sustained absence of environmental catastrophe. Investors in the bonds would have powerful incentives to ensure that resources went into avoiding catastrophe, rather than ticking boxes or shaping a company's image. Government could spend less time trying (unsuccessfully) to regulate against every conceivable adverse event, and more time focusing on the broad social and environmental outcomes that society wants to see. Incentives, in short, would be channelled into society's goal, rather than that of corporations or government agencies.
24 June 2010
Process and image versus outcomes
Frank Furedi writes: