CSR Disasters: BP Spill, A Year On

One of the biggest environmental disasters happened around this time last year. The BP oil spill has left undeniable impressions on how we view oil drilling and non-renewable sources of energy. This has had a knock-on effect on CSR, PR and marketing. The BP spill is possibly the most high-profile CSR/PR disaster of recent times.

It is true that BP has had a questionable safety record, but the spill could have happened to any of the companies operating a deep sea rig. It is the nature of the business and demand for oil has made it profitable for oil companies to take these risks. Of course BP has accepted blame, but it has resulted in PR disasters for the company that has ultimately reflected on its CSR profile as well.

A year after the spill BP is still gunning to get back into oil drilling the Gulf of Mexico, this time with higher safety standards. There are still questions about what these standards might be. Residents in the area has reported various health problems. Of the 954 residents in seven coastal communities, almost half said they had experienced health problems like coughing, skin and eye irritation, or headaches that are consistent with common symptoms of chemical exposure. Those who have been affected by the disaster are still waiting for payments. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported recently, that BP just gave another $30 million to Florida to help entice tourists onto its beaches this summer.

The aftermath of the spill is still being felt especially on the marine life in the region which in turn affects many livelihoods in the area. Hundreds of very endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles have been washing ashore and dead dolphins are showing up at 10 times the normal rate. Right after the spill, over 6,000 birds, 600 sea turtles and 160 dolphins were killed. Traces of oil have been found in the larvae of blue crabs and researchers have found carcinogens in the water. These carcinogens have also percolated through the food chain affecting  Gulf shrimp and fish which have been shown to contain toxic hydrocarbons. More than 20% of the endangered bluefin tuna spawn were killed in the spill.

Despite the clean-up efforts, the oil spill has damaged fragile coral reefs and dispersants being absorbed by zoo plankton and fish. The effects of the spill in the marshes and coastal areas will still be felt for years to come. A year on, there are still reports of tar balls being washed ashore which no one can verify because BP does not give reporters access to the beach. A year on and the biggest CSR disaster is that BP still has not issued any reports with real transparency regarding their clean-up efforts, compensation and concerns of safety in their operations.

Photo credit: ideum via Flickr/CC BY-SA