August 16, 2011
Choosing Social Responsibility As Good Business
North Dakota has benefitted greatly from the most recent oil boom in the western part of the state. And the state's finances, as well as many of the state's citizens' finances, are in good shape. That doesn't mean that that everyone is benefiting. As this report (with video) explains, McKenzie County has the fifth highest average wage rate in the state, but a poverty rate higher than the state average.
I'm someone who supports the energy industry in many ways, and I believe that there are times when the government creates many kinds of unnecessary hurdles to production and exploration. By the same token, energy companies create the kind of climate that leads to knee-jerk responses that impede program. (See, e.g., BP in the Gulf of Mexico). While the knee-jerk responses aren't always productive, some sort of response is often necessitated by events.
In western North Dakota and other parts of the country where energy extraction is in high gear, energy companies would be well served to keep their eyes on the circumstances around them. Taking the time to ensure operations are as safe as possible, for both people and the environment, is one good start. Paying attention to what is happening in the communities is which they work is another.
This is not me saying that the government should somehow mandate that corporations certain kinds of social responsibility. This is me saying that investments in communities are often investments in the companies working in those communities. Perhaps it is my public relations background, but in my experience, businesses that have good relationships with their customers and communities are in much better position to whether the storm when inevitable mistakes happen. Plus, you can avoid headlines like this.