Book Of The Week: How to enrapture raptors

Waltzing with the Raptors

by Glen Peters

(John Wiley, pounds 18.50)

BANK OF Scotland's recent spot of bother over its now-abandoned venture with the US television evangelist Pat Robertson demonstrates once more that businesses of all sorts appears in almost constant danger of undermining their reputations.

Glen Peters points out in this timely book that the risk is growing. The episode involving Shell and the disposal of the Brent Spar oil storage platform showed how even companies with strong reputations for corporate responsibility can burn their fingers.

The marketing folk may talk increasingly about such concepts as "brand values", integrity and other aspects of reputation. But this counts for little if organisations fail to live up to the expectations of not just society, but small yet potentially powerful segments of it. The increased readiness of activist groups to take on companies gives Mr Peters, a consultant with Pricewaterhouse- Coopers, his title.

Velociraptors, or "raptors", were among the most deadly of dinosaurs. He likens the exploits of the "asset strippers" to these aggressive beasts.

But he also stresses that special-interest groups can have the same effect - and he paints gloomy scenarios of multinationals brought to their knees by claims that they have put shareholder interests ahead of safety, conservation or human rights.

Mr Peters imagines a different world, in which the company "engages" the raptor by seeking to understand why it wants to attack.

"You provide alternatives that sate its hunger and placate its killing instincts. In a way, you provide the musical accompaniment of a calming Viennese waltz," he writes.

This sounds rather pretentious. But he does have a point. As he explains, BP - before its merger with Amoco - had a run-in with Greenpeace. Initially, it responded in the traditional way, taking court action against the protesters occupying its oil platforms. But then it decided to waltz, by offering to create a $1bn solar power business over five years. The company had not abandoned fossil fuels as Greenpeace had demanded but it had made a significant commitment to renewable energy, and the pressure group recognised that.

These examples - like others cited in the book - show how companies have responded to attacks. And what Mr Peters is keen to explain is how companies can avoid getting into trouble in the first place. This is what makes his book of greater value than many of the others that have appeared in this area in recent months.

It would be hard to find a senior executive who did not want his organisation to have a good reputation; the trick is actually gaining one - and retaining it. Many organisations will have noticed that setting yourself up as reputable or, in the current terminology, "values-driven", can make you even more of a target.

Being a management consultant, and especially one in an organisation that is part of an accounting firm, Mr Peters has a business solution. But, while this might appear simplistic, it sets out principles that can help organisations through what is an increasingly complex landscape.

The "Reputation Assurance Framework" basically involves organisations looking at the four principles of "stewardship", "the environment", "health and safety" and "communication" in terms of the various stakeholder groups - shareholders, customers, employees, society and partners. Underlying this are what he calls three golden rules - listen to constituencies - and avoid assumptions; rely on self-assessment, rather than regulation; and monitor and measure what you are doing.

Clearly, nothing can guarantee that an organisation will never get into trouble. But, reading this book, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that if the Bank of Scotland had followed this approach it probably would not have stumbled into its recent furore.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
i100
Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Helpdesk Analyst

£23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...

Senior Helpdesk Analyst / Service Desk Co-ordinator

£27000 per annum + pension, 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ind...

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Corporate Actions Administrator / Operations Administrator

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Corporate Actions Administrator / Operations Admini...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album