BP: Influence/Lobbying

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Like most of its fellow oil companies and a number of industry associations, BP was formerly a member of the Global Climate Coalition (GCC): The coalition has heavily lobbied governments and has mounted persuasive advertising campaigns in the US to turn public opinion against concrete action on greenhouse gas emissions. The so called 'carbon club' lead the way in undermining public support for action to curb climate change.

BP, attempting to brand itself as progressive was one of the first to withdraw from GCC. John Browne, Chairman of BP, announced in a speech at Stanford University on May 19, 1997, that:

"The time to consider the policy dimensions of climate change is not when the link between greenhouse gases and climate change is conclusively proven, but when the possibility cannot be discounted and is taken seriously by the society of which we are part. We in BP have reached that point." [1]

In 1998 Shell followed BP and left the coalition and by early 2000 Texaco and others were joining the movement away from the GCC. While the GCC was an overt lobby against action on climate change, since it was sidelined other lobby groups have come to the fore which are more subtle in their tactics.

BP takes a high profile position within the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) [2]. Speeches by John Browne can be found on the WBCSD website [3]. Members of BP wear their WBCSD hat, for example at the UN's COP climate summits.

For details of WBCSD's position on climate change: (http://www.wbcsd.org/projects/pr_climenergy.htm)

BP also belongs to the US Council for International Business (USCIB) [4] The USCIB to which BP America and over 300 other corporations belong is involved in lobbying the US government. The council was founded in 1945 "to promote an open system of world trade, investment and finance" [5]. Other prominent members of the council include: the American Petroleum Institute, Coca-Cola, Chevron (oil Co.), Dupont, General Electric, General Motors, Ford, McDonalds, Mobil, Monsanto, Nestle USA, Philip Morris (tobacco), Shell (oil), Texaco (oil) and Unilever. The USCIB is the US affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE). Most significantly USCIB chairs the expert-group of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)[6].

BP also holds positions within the Centre for European Policy Studies [7] (CEPS) [8] Charles Nicholson, Group Senior Adviser of BP, chaired a special meeting on climate change, hosted by CEPS, on the eve of COP6 bis: the resumed international negotiations on the future of the Kyoto Protocol (Bonn, July 16-27, 2000). The meeting launched a new CEPS working party on "Emissions trading and the new EU climate-change policy" which will be chaired by Charles Nicholson [9].

BP's chief executive officer (CEO) is entitled to sit at the Business Roundtable [10], an association who examine public issues that affect the economy [11]. The association, which represents over 200 companies, ran a series of newspaper advertisements timed to precede an address by President Clinton to its annual meeting in June 1997. The adverts called for a climate policy "balanced" between economy and environment [12]. The roundtable's position is explained in Rush to Judgment: A Primer on Global Climate Change, available on the group's website. http://www.globalchange.org/gccd/gcc-digest/1997/d97sep17.htm

  • Global Compact - http://www.unglobalcompact.org A member of the BP board was among the senior officers of 50 major companies present at the formal launch of the UN Global Compact on July 26, 2000. The compact was first mooted by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a speech to the Davos World Economic Forum in January 1999. The compact between the UN and business aims to uphold values in human rights, labour standards and environmental practice. The Compact is open for adherence by any company, large or small, no formalities are involved but companies are asked to demonstrate their adherence by taking corporate action to support the values of the Compact [13].
  • The European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT), which includes BP is a club of 48 captains of industry drawn from the largest European multinationals. With privileged access to EU and national decision-makers the roundtable has been at the forefront in promoting industry self-regulation over government-enforceable mechanisms. ERT Environment Working Group released a report on climate change in mid-October, prior to COP6 in the Hague: Climate Change: How Government and Industry can Work Together [14].

BP also belongs to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) [15]: "The only representative body that speaks with authority on behalf of enterprises from all sectors in every part of the world." [16] [17]

ICC promotes free trade and the market economy with the conviction that "trade is a powerful force for peace and prosperity" [18]. ICC aims to be a forum where business can agree voluntary rules to govern world trade in the hope that this image of responsible industry self-regulation will persuade governments not to interfere. It proved so successful in this that within a year of the creation of the United Nations, ICC was granted consultative status at the UN [19].

The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) to which BP belongs [20] was established in 1992 for governments and business, to strengthen commercial relationships between the US and the African continent. CCA members believe that Africa's future success depends upon the ability of its entrepreneurs and business people to create and retain wealth through private enterprise [21].

Influencing research and education

BP has a working relationship with the following universities. These are key institutions, providing graduates to the oil industry, many courses, particularly in the field of geology receive funding from one or more oil companies: Imperial College, Aberdeen University, Cambridge University, Heriot-Watt University, Oxford University, Warwick University, Kingston University, Lincolnshire and Humberside University. BP recruits heavily from these universities. For more details of the oil industries involvement in higher education see Corporate Watch's briefing 'Degrees of Capture' or contact People & Planet about their 'Slick Protest' campaign [22]

Links with government

The strength of BP's links to Britain's New-Labour government became apparent within weeks of their election in 1997 when they appointed former chair of BP David Simon (Lord Simon of Highbury) to a position in the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as Minister for Competitiveness in Europe.

BP is represented on a number of government QUANGOs: the Learning & Skills Council, Competition Commission, DTI Advisory Panel on Photovoltaics, Council for Science & Technology, Commonwealth Development Corporation, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Advice Committee on Business and Environment, Industrial Development Advice Board, Public Services Productivity Committee, Scottish National Heritage, UK Round Table on Sustainable Development, SW Essex Business & Education Partnership, and the Oil and Pipelines Agency.

In 2010-11 BP was listed as a member of the UK HM Treasury's Liaison Committee Review of Controlled Foreign Companies (CFC) Rules. The company representative was Jane Wethered. [1]

PR Companies

BP's advertising agency is Ogilvy & Mather and their PR consultants Ogilvy PR. In the past BP has also used other companies and a number of the trade associations to which it belongs as environmental or community relations consultants.


A key plank of BP's marketing strategy has been to portray itself as a green company. BP has promoted new 'cleaner' fuels and publicised its targets for reducing CO2 emissions from its own operations (eg. by reducing gas flaring), not mentioning its ambitious targets for increased production of fossil fuels. In his introduction to BP's annual report 2000 John Browne prescribes that for the immediate future hydrocarbons will continue to meet the majority of our energy needs.

BP has further greened its image by being seen to talk with Oxfam and Friends of the Earth, and BP also sponsors cultural institutions including parts of the British Museum, Tate Gallery, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Museum of Mankind and the National Portrait Gallery.

Perhaps ironically considering BP's role in climate change, BP employees were involved in raising money for the Mozambique flood appeal [23].

The marketing spin pushed by BP Solar is that "BP Solar is a recognized leader in protecting the environment and believes solar power is a key element to reduce the threat of global climate change and improve air quality." [24] No mention of BP group's core business here. In the UK, BP has used TV commercials about rural solar-electrification in the developing world. BP Solar has won multi-million dollar contracts for rural electrification in Indonesia and the Philippines and supplied photovoltaics to the 'green games' in Sydney, Australia [25].

Lobbying and PR personnel

UK Public Affairs Team

The UK Political Affairs Team is part of BP's Communications and External Affairs Team. It is based at the Corporate headquarters in St James’s Square, London.


  • HM Treasury, CFC Review: List of Liaison Committee Members, acc 5 October 2011