Ethical fading is considered as a self-deceptive mechanism where a person who would normally consider ethical consequences of an action would actually indulge in that action disregarding the consequences. Some types of ethical fading were present in the BP oil leak issue and are discussed below.
Moral justification is a form of ethical misleading where the moral of the people involved in the actions, or the action itself is highlighted in a positive light in order to complete the action. People who would not indulge in the action in normal times would actually do it because they feel that it is morally justified. In the case of the BP oil drilling practices, it was observed that they were involved in very high risk practices. The high-risk practices could potentially have led to misadventures such as the oil spill. They should have been corrected. However, BP was more focused on carrying on with their oil drilling. The moral justification that BP would have provided for its stakeholders could have being in the context of presenting profits for the company. Alternatively, they could have justified the actions by presenting oil resources as being a valuable necessity so that some amount of risks could be justified.
After the oil disaster, BP in its first press release attempted to make it appear that they were offering full support to Transocean after the rig fire. Here BP attempted to present a diffusion of responsibility. The diffusion of responsibility attempts to present a shared responsibility context where no single person is responsible. In a way what BP did was even worse, as BP was seen to be pointing fingers at Transocean making them take all responsibility for the fire.
Euphemistic language could have been used as a way to support ethical fading. In the context of following high risk actions, it would have been possible that BP would have presented its cost cutting measures as a way of excuse. “I am not involved in high risk measures, I am just trying to control costs” would have been a statement appropriate to understand BP’s behavior. Advantageous comparisons might have been used to support the ethical fading, for example, how other oil companies were attempting to indulge in similar practices in order to contain costs. While this form of advantageous comparison was not really fair given the magnitude of the problem, it could have been possible that the business could have indulged in such comparisons for the sake of competitive working.