Volume 2, 2005
Perspectives On International Corporate Responsibility
Susanne van de Wateringen
The Petroleum Industry and Reputation
Developments in Corporate Reputation Over the Period 1990-2002
A good reputation is one of the most valuable assets a company can have. A problematic reputation can hinder companies in their performance. In competitive markets where products differ little in price, technology, or availability, reputation can make a difference. Petroleum companies are frequently associated with environmental issues such as oil spills and climate change. Since environmental performance rankings remain inconclusive due to methodological shortcomings, those issues may affect the sector’s reputation. This paper examines whether the observation of a problematic reputation for multinationals in the petroleum sector is sustained by empirical data for the period 1990–2002. Taking in account methodological limitations, the analysis shows two downward trends for all companies, indicating a common reputation effect. The effect of catalyst events is observed for individual companies. However, the contribution of the paper is not only empirical. Conceptually, the results show the complexity of measuring the multidimensional concept of reputation, as well as the importance of the reputation commons, catalyst events, and a reputation mechanism.