OILSPILL-BP/COMMISSION

By Christine Bader, who worked for BP from 1999-2008. The opinions expressed are her own.

Next week world leaders will gather in Davos for the annual World Economic Forum to discuss topics ranging from climate change to global risks and economic growth. Looming in the background will be last year’s massive Gulf oil spill, which has serious implications for all of those issues.

In the postmortem analyses of the spill, my former employer, BP, looks like the opposite of a model corporate citizen, having apparently contributed to 11 deaths, numerous other injuries, and the release of over four million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

I struggle to reconcile the BP on view today, in which reckless cost-cutting and risk-taking seem to run rampant, with the BP I worked for, which went above and beyond what was required to take care of its employees and neighbors. The latter in no way exonerates the former, but examining the two different faces of the company shows how we can improve corporate behavior — not just of BP, but of business more broadly.

When I moved to Indonesia for BP in 2000, my assignment was to make sure that a planned liquefied natural gas plant would benefit the people of West Papua, the country’s easternmost province on the island of New Guinea.