It appears that corporate excellence isn't what you do anymore, but how much you're willing to pay. With a potential $27 billion judgment looming in Ecuador over oil contamination, Chevron has been working hard to hide its toxic legacy and promote itself as a corporation with a reputation worthy of honor.
But, instead of working to actually improve their image on the ground, Chevron has been hard at work currying favor at the State Department and throwing money at everything but the hundreds of pits of oil littering the most diverse region on the planet.
Recently Chevron announced a $5 million contribution for next year's Shanghai World Expo, after an appeal by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The company also paid for its own full-page, color Washington Post ad to congratulate itself on receiving the Richard C. Holbrooke Award for Business Leadership. Holbrooke, not surprisingly, now works at State, serving as the President's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The oil giant has most recently gotten itself nominated as a finalist for the Secretary of State's Award for Corporate Excellence. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2009/oct/130172.htm.
A stunning coincidence following, as it does, hard on the heels of these generous financial payouts.
To be clear – we're not arguing that contributing to various projects like these is a bad thing, only that Chevron cannot try to hide their bad acts in countries like Ecuador, Nigeria, and Burma by contributing some money to the World Expo and fighting AIDS in Africa. While those are worthy projects, the company cannot balance the scales of morality by doing some good over there while ruining people's lives and polluting lands over here. It's like going to McDonald's and ordering a Big Mac and large fries but getting a Diet Coke – sure, the Diet Coke is better than a regular Coke but it doesn't make the Big Mac any better for you.
But it seems like Chevron isn't interested in that message. Instead of adapting their policies to finally fulfill their legal and moral obligations and to be a better corporate citizen, Chevron has instead chosen the strategy of using its record-breaking profits to buy itself a good corporate reputation.