Similar to Lexi’s endeavors last week, I took some time to search the BP website. In an entire subsection devoted to sustainability, I hoped to find some groundbreaking information about their mission as a company going forward or some general updates regarding where they are today in relation to the 2010 oil spill catastrophe. Interestingly enough, I stumbled upon a section devoted to oil spill response exercises and seemingly positive data regarding cleanup and restoration measures. BP reports in 2014 that “the volume of oil spilled decreased to approximately 400 thousand litres” compared to the previous year’s 724 thousand litres. However, Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of the Gulf restoration Network, the NPR Podcast regarding BP oil spill updates in 2015 suggests that the uphill battle is far from over. As she documents in her trip to the island off the coast of the Louisiana coast called Grand Terre 5 years later, there seem to be more questions than answers regarding the lingering impact of the spill despite BP’s deceivingly positive 2014 data.
After already spending upwards of $14 billion on cleanup and restoration, the company reported that “no company has done more, or responded to an industrial accident faster than BP did in response to the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010”. Does the $14 billion spent truly categorize as good ol’ Old Testament justice — “an eye for an eye”? Environmentalists groups would beg to differ. Current findings suggest tar balls keep emerging and dolphin deaths are still on the rise, indicating that the BP oil spill may plague the Gulf for decades. It is clear that this problem extends beyond the scope of something a few billion dollars can fix.
It is easy to point blame at the senior executives of BP, but the most important take away of the spill is what the company should have done, what they could have done to prevent this. To prevent the 11 lives lost, the wild and marine life killed as a result, and the $18.7 billion coughed up to settle federal and state claims. So what should the senior executive team have done and where did they go wrong? An argument could be made that BP merely fell subject to bad luck and that the resulting spill could have easily happened to any oil company. But we all know that a spill of that magnitude isn’t the product solely of bad luck. A company who places such a strong focus on deepwater drilling should have had a much better contingency plan for dealing with an underwater oil leak— or at least you would think they would. The carelessness associated with the rig crew’s misreading of the pressure test and poor decisions by management were the true catalysts to the rig explosion; two causes that could have easily been avoided.
While it is easy to point out flaws in BP’s executive management, doing so is arguably futile. We can’t go back in time and erase what happened in 2010. However, we can look at this as a turning point in history and apply it to corporations going forward. The oil spill in the Gulf was undoubtedly a learning lesson for BP. Has the company taken the initiative to dilute the effect of the spill in these affected areas? Yes. Has BP been thoroughly punished for its malpractices? Some would argue yes. I mean, how much more can you really punish a corporation for something like this? Should it take a large scale catastrophe like this to make a company change their ways? Most certainly not. Cases such as BP, Nike, and Apple are all cases that exemplify how imperative it is for companies to be a proactive versus a reactive firm when it comes to corporate social responsibility.