Abstract

The increasing globalization of industry has brought new challenges and new opportunities to risk communication practitioners, especially those working in Southeast Asia. Unocal's operations in Thailand including a network of nearly 80 platforms in the central Gulf of Thailand provide a valuable example of cross cultural risk communication. Unocal Thailand has been producing natural gas in the Gulf of Thailand for the last 17 years. A by-product of this gas production is metallic mercury, a small amount of which has been released around the production platforms in the Gulf. In recent years, concern has increased over the potential health and ecological impacts of the mercury levels. Unocal has been conducting fishing surveys as well as health and ecological assessments to provide the technical answers to these questions. The risk communication effort which has accompanied the Thai studies sheds some light on what is needed for an effective global risk communication strategy. In our paper, we focus on four areas of particular importance to Unocal's risk communication efforts in Thailand:

  1. an approach to environmental issues through an understanding of the "outrage factors" which make people upset;

  2. the importance of working within-rather than against-the cultural and legal expectations of different lands;

  3. the process of identifying and involving stakeholders and credible sources of information; and

  4. the implications for industry conducting business overseas.

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