Tag Archives: corporate responsibility

A Stain That Won’t Wash Away – NYTimes.com

20 Apr

The problem then (and perhaps now) is that it is the slow pileup of factors that causes an industrial disaster. Poor decisions are usually made incrementally by a range of people with differing levels of responsibility, and almost always behind a shield of plausible deniability. It makes it almost impossible to pin one clear-cut bad call on a single manager, which is partly why no BP official has ever been held criminally accountable.

Instead, the corporation is held accountable. It isn’t clear that charging the company repeatedly with misdemeanors and felonies has accomplished anything.

At more than $30 billion and climbing, the amount BP has paid out so far for reparations, lawsuits and cleanup dwarfs the roughly $8 billion that Exxon had to pay after its 1989 spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska. And BP will very likely still pay billions more before this is finished.

And yet it is not enough. Two years after analysts questioned whether the extraordinary cost and loss of confidence might drive BP out of business, it has come roaring back. It collected more than $375 billion in 2011, pocketing $26 billion in profits.

What the gulf spill has taught us is that no matter how bad the disaster (and the environmental impact), the potential consequences have never been large enough to dissuade BP from placing profits ahead of prudence. That might change if a real person was forced to take responsibility — or if the government brought down one of the biggest hammers in its arsenal and banned the company from future federal oil leases and permits altogether. Fines just don’t matter.

via A Stain That Won’t Wash Away – NYTimes.com.

Sisters of St. Francis, the Quiet Shareholder Activists – NYTimes.com

14 Nov

Wonderful!

In 1980, Sister Nora and her community formed a corporate responsibility committee to combat what they saw as troubling developments at the businesses in which they invested their retirement fund. A year later, in coordination with groups like the Philadelphia Area Coalition for Responsible Investment, they mounted their offensive. They boycotted Big Oil, took aim at Nestlé over labor policies, and urged Big Tobacco to change its ways.

Eventually, they developed a strategy combining moral philosophy and public shaming. Once they took aim at a company, they bought the minimum number of shares that would allow them to submit resolutions at that company’s annual shareholder meeting….That gave them a nuclear option, in the event the company’s executives refused to meet with them….

“You’re not going to get any sympathy for cutting off a nun at your annual meeting,” says Robert McCormick, chief policy officer of Glass, Lewis & Company, a firm that specializes in shareholder proxy votes. With their moral authority, he said, the Sisters of St. Francis “can really bring attention to issues.”

via Sisters of St. Francis, the Quiet Shareholder Activists – NYTimes.com.