LGBTQ Society moves away from “unethical” BP sponsorship

Oxford University’s LGBTQ Society has rejected a proposal to approach British Petroleum for sponsorship, following concerns from members over “unethical” elements of the corporation.

The society received BP sponsorship  worth around £500 last year, and still displays the company’s logo on its website. Last month the committee rejected a proposal, made by Society Treasurer Cai Wilshaw, to seek BP sponsorship once again.

A report from Wilshaw during a  Committee meeting in January stated that “corporate firms want to give us [the Society] money and we make almost all our money from them”.

According to meeting minutes, “3 people expressed disagreement with certain firms and types of firm”.

Committee member Jessy Humphreys explained: “The decision to reject BP sponsorship has arisen out of agreements by committee members that we felt uncomfortable with having a corporation like BP, which many view to be unethical and damaging, sponsoring the society.”

Humphreys, who is also JCR President at Jesus College, continued: “Having a company like BP, which has caused huge environmental damage and continues to use fossil fuels, associated with the LGBTQ Society seemed to legitimise the corporation and it was something that LGBTQ students across Oxford objected to. I’m glad that the Society has taken into account the opinions of its members and the committee in making a decision.

“Being LGBTQ is about objecting to all kinds of oppression and that should consequently include supporting actions taken to encourage an environmentally friendly world, actions which BP do not take”.

An anonymous committee member agreed, commenting: “I don’t really believe that huge, environment-destroying companies like BP sponsoring LGBT societies and hosting LGBT recruitment events makes them any less evil.

“As a queer student myself, it doesn’t exactly fill me with glee that a huge corporation like BP are using LGBT rights as a public relations ploy”.

The issue of corporate sponsorship has provoked tension within the committee on previous occasions. An email sent to society members in Michaelmas 2014 promoted a BP LGBTQ recruitment event with: “If you like spilling oil and ruining the environment, a job at BP could be for you!”

BP runs a Pride group for LGBTQ  employees, and in May joined with Stonewall in order to host an LGTB  event at the Royal Academy of Engineering concerned with how to increase inclusion within the engineering sector.

Society Treasurer Cai Wilshaw commented: “Our committee discussed the possibility of seeking sponsorship from firms in our first week meeting, and we had a very productive discussion with a plurality of views advanced.

“This was not specific to sponsorship from BP as we have not heard from them since last year. However, we decided on a short term pledge to explore possible sponsorship from firms, with the aim of establishing an LGBTQ club night in the medium term.

“We also hope to revisit the conversation at a later time, to see whether there are other means to make the society self-sustaining, and to ensure that we can continue our work in supporting minorities within the LGBTQ community through free welfare events, film screenings and pizza nights”.

BP recently attracted publicity after former chief executive Lord Browne came out as gay.

BP did not respond to our request for comment.

Image: OU LGBTQSoc