The Green Gauge: BP’s environmental history scrutinized

By Christopher Greenwald
May 19, 2010

The ongoing struggle in the Gulf of Mexico to contain and remove oil spilling from a ruptured deepwater well is damaging more than the environment, a bi-weekly analysis of companies in the news by ASSET4 data providers shows.

Here is a breakdown of the companies that made headlines Apr. 23 to May 7 for making or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.

Company selections were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

Here are the recent hits and misses:

BP/

bot25 BP PLC

In what has the potential to become one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history, BP has faced increasing scrutiny in the media in the past 2 weeks for its poor history of safety and environmental incidents in the recent past. The company had an oil spill in late 2009 at its Prudhoe Bay operations, the location of a devastating spill in 2005, and the company has recently faced a law suit brought by employees over exposure to toxic chemical releases at its Texas City refinery, the site of an explosion in 2006 that killed 12 workers.

bot25 Transocean, Halliburton, Cameron

While attention has focused in the media on BP, other companies are implicated in the Deepwater Horizon incident. Those likely to face significant litigation include Transocean, the owner and operator of the rig; Halliburton, which provided cementing to stabilize the walls of the well and Cameron which produced the rig’s blowout preventers.

bot25 Freeport-McMoran

Freeport-McMoran is again facing pressure from institutional shareholders to appoint a board member with environmental expertise.  The resolution for the company’s June 9 annual meeting is being led by Holland’s large pension fund ABP.  A similar proposal received 1/3 of the votes of shareholders last year and is being driven by continued environmental controversies surrounding the company’s mining operations in Papua New Guinea.

bot25 Royal Dutch Shell

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Royal Dutch Shell has recently faced renewed criticism for its plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean.  Although exploratory drilling has been granted conditional approval by the U.S. Minerals Management service, environmental and Native American groups are challenging the plans in appeals court, arguing that Shell’s planned drilling would pose a significant threat to the natural habitat of the Arctic region.  This news comes as Shell has also recently revealed that it spilled 14,000 tons of oil in Nigerian during 2009, more than double the amount of the previous year, which the company has blamed on increasing attacks by local militant groups.

bot25 Wal-Mart

In one of the largest environmental fines in U.S. history, Wal-Mart reached a $27.6 million settlement with the State of California for improperly disposing of hazardous waste at its stores and distribution centers throughout the state.  The settlement includes a $20 million fine, as well as $6 million to develop better training and processes to safely dispose of toxic waste in the future.

top25 Cisco

Cisco topped the ranking of Greenpeace’s annual Cool IT ranking, which measures companies on their commitment and solutions to fight climate change.  Greenpeace commended Cisco’s greater transparency on the environmental impacts of their products, the company’s “Smart Plant” green products initiative, as well as the policy advocacy efforts on the part of the company and specifically its CEO John Chambers for policies addressing climate change.

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Photo shows a British Petroleum (BP) logo at a petrol station in south London April 27, 2010.  REUTERS/Toby Melville

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