Bhopal Gas Tragedy Communication Failures Case Study Uc Berkeley Dissertation Filing
There were significant precautions taken at the US plant in West Virginia that were not in place in Bhopal. There was a safety visit made there by the Americans in 1982 but no procedures or changes were put in place based on their recommendations.
Even minimal safety standards that the plant had devised were pushed aside to provide more financial benefit.
This disaster raised some very serious ethical issues as well such as careless In the eyes of the government, the company could do no wrong” (Browning, 1993).
As in many ethical challenges in business, the lack of oversight or lack of enforcement of policies contribute to the dilemma.
Initially, Union Carbide's corporate communications staff strongly recommended the company be as open as possible with all the information they had at hand. Corporate attorneys for Union Carbide were adamant that Anderson's presence in Bhopal would only serve to tighten the connection between Union Carbide and the Bhopal tragedy. based corporation only owned about half the publicly traded stock in the Indian operation, the best strategy would be to distance Union Carbide' leadership in the U. Warren Anderson rejected this advice (Kurzman, 1987, p. He felt the scope of the tragedy was so significant and already connected in the mind of the public with Union Carbide that efforts to distance the Company from the tragedy were futile.
However, Union Carbide had traditionally been reticent in dealing with the media (p. In addition, the company's attorneys recommended that information should be withheld that may possibly implicate or confirm the company's responsibility for the Bhopal leak and hence increase its potential legal liability (p. The Corporation's leadership was divided between attempting to distance itself from the events in Bhopal (Avoidance Strategy) and providing maximum information about the event, as well as direct support to the victims and full cooperation with the Indian Government (Attachment/Forgiveness Strategies). They and several senior executives continued to advise that, seeing how the Bhopal Plant was actually operated by a subsidiary of Union Carbide (Union Carbide India Limited) (Shrivastava, 1987, p. Anderson traveled to India and was promptly arrested by Indian authorities upon arrival (Kurzman, p.108).
Union Carbide's executives were, at first, divided between emphasizing avoidance strategies and attachment strategies in response to the Bhopal tragedy.
Although, the company initially decided it would adopt an attachment strategy toward the crisis, its execution of the communication plan was hampered and resulted in mixed impressions in the media and among the general public (Shrivastava, 1987).
The Indian Government saw events one way; it wanted to ensure, (1) that it was not held accountable for the events in Bhopal, (2) that it was seen as a victim of Union Carbide's lax safety and maintenance procedures, (3) that it visibly demonstrated that the Indian Government could handle the disaster and medical relief response and (4) that the local government retained its credibility with the population (Shrivastava, p. This strategy placed the Indian Government at odds with Union Carbide and led to the arrest of the CEO when he arrived in India. The impression derived from mass media coverage of the incident focused on the drama of the initial event rather than on in-depth coverage of its possible causes (Wilkins, 1987).
On December 3, 1984, more than 3,000 people were killed and over 15,000 injured when the chemical methyl isocynate (MIC) was inadvertently released from a Union Carbide Chemical Plant in Bhopal, India.
The scale of the tragedy, the loss of life and the implications for industrial/chemical manufacturing, made the story an instant worldwide headline (Kurzman, 1987).
Union Carbide's initial crisis communication strategy centered on the financial costs of the tragedy, limiting its legal/financial responsibility for the deaths of thousands of innocent people, the future of the corporation, the stockholders and Wall Street analysts who valued the company's stock and pressure from worldwide consumer and environmental groups (Higgins, 1985, p.14).
The difficulty in getting accurate information from India severely hampered Union Carbide's ability to get information out quickly to the media. Communication scholars and those who study crisis management remain divided about the overall effectiveness of Union carbide's communication strategy regarding the Bhopal incident (Wilkins, 1987; Higgins, 1987).