In my position as Director of Government & Public Affairs for BP, I am often asked to describe what BP is doing to maintain its position as a good corporate citizen here in Northwest Indiana. BP and our Whiting refinery have a deep sense of pride when it comes to our standing in our community.
In my view, being a good corporate citizen comes down to safe and responsible operations, support of advancing socio-economic development, developing education and workforce capacity, and encouraging volunteerism from our employees.
First and foremost, it is imperative to maintain safe operations without impacting the communities in which we operate. For a large regional manufacturing facility of our size, located in the communities of Whiting, East Chicago and Hammond, operational safety and not negatively impacting our neighbors are fundamental to what we must do every day.
Of course, recognition as being a “Good Corporate Citizen” goes beyond simply maintaining safe operations. From an economic standpoint, the Whiting refinery continues to be one of the largest contributors to the State of Indiana’s and Lake County’s tax base as we continue to pay our fair share of corporate and local property taxes.
In addition, as is the case with all businesses large and small, the quality and strength of our refinery is defined by the quality of our about 1,650 employees and the thousands of contractors that work to make us strong every day. Without our employees and contractors, we would not be the great business that we are. Over the past six years, we have made safe and steady progress on our multi-billon dollar refinery modernization project. This project could not have advanced to this point without the long-term commitment of our employees and the hard working contractors and building trades that have worked on the project.
BP also provides a number of corporate matching programs that encourage employees to contribute to their favorite charitable institutions. Included in these programs is BP’s “Fabric of America Fund,” which provides each BP employee with an annual $300 contribution to the nonprofit of their choice.
From a community engagement standpoint, BP is involved in a multitude of community activities and initiatives. BP’s focus begins with socio-economic development. Further economic development creates additional jobs and future opportunities for the people of Northwest Indiana. These opportunities improve the quality of life and the health and well-being of our local residents. BP also continues to support regional initiatives such as One Region, One Vision and the continuation of the Quality of Life Indicators to measure our socio-economic progress over time.
The United Ways of Lake and Porter County continue to play a key role in maintaining basic human services for those in need. Through a core group of BP Volunteers that oversee our annual employee campaign, BP continues to be one of the largest corporate contributors to the local United Ways and the agencies that the United Ways support.
Building education capacity and strengthening local workforce capabilities also is a major focus of BP’s local community investment. BP continues to support pre-school programs such as Early Learning Partnership, a creative program that assists parents in pre-school education in their own homes. At the K-12 level, BP supports the Hammond and East Chicago Education Foundations and the scholarships that they provide to teachers to develop creative programs for the classroom.
Two other educational institutions continue to make progress in broadening local student skills and horizons. We are fortunate to have the Challenger Learning Center and the Dunes Environmental Learning Center here in Northwest Indiana. BP has supported these programs since their inception. These two centers have been open for more than 15 years, and provide local students a non-traditional opportunity to engage in science activities that are second to none in our country.
Northwest Indiana is also fortunate to have great institutions of higher learning in Purdue Calumet, Indiana University Northwest, Ivy Tech and others. BP was instrumental in supporting the development of the Purdue Calumet Water Institute. This Institute played a role in evaluating emerging waste water technologies for industrial and municipal facilities. On an annual basis, BP has provided scholarships to Purdue and IU to support students in careers in engineering, science and business. BP has also partnered with Ivy Tech at its East Chicago Campus in the development of the college’s Process Technology Program, a two-year program which provides local students with the fundamental education needed to enter the workforce at the refinery and other local manufacturing businesses.
Finally, through their volunteer efforts our employees play a critical a role in providing direct contributions to organizations. I mentioned earlier our volunteer efforts for United Way including the annual Day of Caring. In addition to that, our Fire Department also braves the cold every December to collect funds for the Salvation Army Helping Hands Program. The BP Fire Department also provides Fire Safety education to local schools during Fire Safety Week.
From an education standpoint we have BP Ambassadors that go into local schools to talk about opportunities to work in the refinery, and our employees also teach Junior Achievement Curriculum in local schools. The list goes on and on.
BP’s Whiting refinery considers the responsibility of Corporate Citizenship to be truly multi-faceted. A corporation’s contribution and commitment to a community cannot be measured solely by its direct monetary contributions. It is also essential to operate safely and responsibly and, above all, be positively engaged in the social fabric of our community.