A sustainable business is any organization that participates in environmentally friendly or green activities to ensure that all processes, products, and manufacturing activities adequately address current environmental concerns while maintaining a profit. In other words, it is a business that “meets the needs of the present world without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. It is the process of assessing how to design products that will take advantage of the current environmental situation and how well a company’s products perform with renewable resources.
Everyone affects the sustainability of the marketplace and the planet in some way. Sustainable development within a business can create value for customers, investors, and the environment. A sustainable business must meet customer needs while, at the same time, treating the environment well. Business going too far – Beyond BP BP is one of the world’s largest energy companies, providing its customers with fuel for transportation, energy for heat and light, retail services and petrochemicals products for everyday items. The BP group operates across six continents, and they have products and services available in more than 100 countries.
The history of BP started in 1908 with oil found in a rugged part of Persia after a long and difficult search. Since then, discoveries large and small have fuelled their progress. BP has long wielded such influence – in fact; the story of its origins is moored in empire and controversy. In 1901, an Australian-British mining magnate named William Knox D’Arcy won a concession from Persia (now Iran) to explore for oil in the country’s rugged, arid southwest. Seven years later, after almost giving up, D’Arcy’s surveyors struck it rich atop a sulphurous patch near where the armies of Alexander the Great had supposedly once seen the lights of black liquid fires burning upon the earth. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company emerged from this discovery and stood in command of what was the greatest oil find of its time. The British government became the company’s major stakeholder on the eve of World War I thanks to Winston Churchill – then the chief of the British navy – who saw in Persia’s wells a bottomless source of fuel for Britain’s modernizing fleet. By the Great War’s end, says BP’s own website, “war without oil would be unimaginable.”
The company made handsome profits through the 1920s and 30s as much of Western society moved toward a world sped along in petroleum-burning automobiles and illuminated by petroleum-burning power plants. The company – renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) in 1935 when new leadership in Tehran opted to shift the nation’s name away from the archaic “Persia” – operated what was then the world’s largest refinery near the city of Abadan. Over 200,000 workers toiled in scorching heat and often-desperate conditions. Observers recounted the inequities between the Iranian workers housed in a rickety slum known as Kaghazabad, or “Paper City,” and the British officials who oversaw them from air-conditioned offices and lawn-fringed villas. Water fountains were even marked “Not for Iranians.”
During World War II, the refinery continued to feed the Allied war machine despite food shortages and a cholera epidemic among workers. In 1954, in an attempt perhaps to move beyond its image as a quasi-colonial enterprise, the company rebranded itself the British Petroleum Company. But the template was already set in the Middle East: future generations of Iranians would remember a meddling west, self-serving and thirsty for oil. BP’s controversial legacy played no small part in the political rhetoric of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which ousted the Shah and paved the way for the Islamic Republic. BP’s oil interests elsewhere in the Middle East were also curtailed by the nationalization schemes of Arab states – in 1975, it transported 140 million tons of oil from the region, but only 500,000 in 1983.
Recognizing the need to cast its net wider, the company built up a network of new holdings, including offshore rigs in the North Sea, near the U.K., and Papua, eastern Indonesia. As the British government sold off its own stake in the company, BP started acquiring a sizable presence in the American market through the 1980s and 90s, buying up companies like Standard Oil of Ohio, ARCO and Amoco. In 1977, BP had already started pumping oil from fields by Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska down a 1,200 km-long pipeline that ran all the way to refineries in the south of the state. The endeavor involved one of the largest infrastructure projects ever attempted in North America and BP prided itself on the environmental sensitivity of its planning, which included raised platforms in certain stretches so as to not impede the natural migrations of caribou.
Still, its recent record in North America will likely be remembered more for its mishaps. In 2005, an explosion in a BP refinery in Texas killed 15 workers. In 2006, over 250,000 gallons of oil spilled through corroded sections of the BP pipeline in Alaska across the North Slope, leading to a partial shutdown of the company’s Prudhoe Bay field and a costly clean-up. In both instances, it was alleged that cost-cutting measures instituted by BP executives had led to poor maintenance. And now the 2010 spill bodes to be the worst in history. BP claims to look “beyond” petroleum, but the company – and a world still dependent on its industry – remains very much in the muck.
The explosion that occurred on April 20th aboard the Deepwater Horizon; a drilling rig working on a well for the oil company BP one mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, led to the largest accidental spill in history. There has been a series of failed efforts to plug the leak; BP said on July 15th that it had capped what it had named the Macondo well, and marking the first time in 86 days that oil was not gushing into the gulf. Nearly five months after it blew out of control the federal government finally declared the well dead on September 19th, after pressure tests confirmed that cement had been pumped into the bottom of the once-gushing well through a relief well formed an effective, and final, seal. The Macondo well and the two relief wells were to be abandoned, following standard industry practices.
It is believed that nearly five million barrels of oil had gushed from BP’s well, according to estimates by government scientists, an amount that outstrips the estimated 3.3 million barrels spilled into the Bay of Campeche by the Mexican rig Ixtoc I in 1979. The oil from the gulf spill first made landfall in Louisiana. But in June, tar balls and oil mousse began to reach the shores of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Shortly after it began to hit shore, beaches, washing onto the shores of coastal communities and oozing into marshy bays that fisherman have worked for generations. It announced its arrival on the Louisiana coast with pictures of brown pelicans, the state bird, dyed with crude.
The slick appeared to be dissolving far more rapidly than anyone expected by August. The immense patches of surface oil that covered thousands of square miles of the gulf after the April 20 explosion were largely gone, though sightings of tar balls and emulsified oil continued in patches. Radar images suggested that the few remaining patches were quickly breaking down in the warm surface waters of the gulf. The long term damages caused by the spill are still uncertain, in part because large amounts of oil spread underwater rather than rising to the surface. And a new study in late August cast some doubt on statements by the federal government that oil in the gulf appeared to be dissipating at a brisk clip.
Generally scientists agree that the risk of additional harm at the surface and near the shore had diminished since the well was capped, a sharp debate about the continuing risk from oil in deep waters. A new study published on August 20th in the journal Science confirmed the existence of a huge plume of dispersed oil deep in the Gulf of Mexico and suggested that it has not broken down rapidly; raising the possibility that it might pose a threat to wildlife for months or even years. Two independent researchers at Columbia University announced in September 2010 that the federal government, after several missteps, had accurately estimated the amount of oil spilled at nearly 172 million gallons. Actually 185 gallons had actually leaked from the broken well, they said.
BP has a history of accidents, five years after it began to market itself as “Beyond Petroleum,” an explosion occurred at a Texas City refinery in 2005. The explosion killed 15 people and injured 170. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined BP $21 million for safety violations. A year later, a BP pipeline leak dumped 267,000 gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay caused by failing equipment that environmental advocates had earlier red-flagged for a fix. The company did not detect the leak for days. It was the worst onshore oil spill in the state’s history. Congressional investigations found that the spill was caused by BP’s negligence.
BP has the highest number of explosions and other incidents at its US refineries, and made the Multinational Monitor’s 10 Worst Companies list in 2000 and 2005, based on its environmental and human rights record. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) fined BP in 2007 for violations related to an almost blowout at an offshore rig in 2002. The same year, a customer survey found that BP had the reputation as the most environmentally friendly oil company. The “Beyond Petroleum” campaign also won the Gold Award from the American marketing association in 2007. Between 2000 and 2007, BP reported that its brand awareness increased from 4 to 67 percent.