When corporations act unethically, they may improve their bottom line over the short-term. But if their aim is to enhance their profits by dispensing with prudence – for example, having their managers decree operational shortcuts that ignore standard procedures and do not take safety into consideration – then over a more extended period, such reckless behavior raises the odds of negative consequences. One can only tempt fate for so long.
I would cite the 2010 explosion involving the Deepwater Horizon rig, and the accompanying dire environmental consequences for the Gulf of Mexico as support for this assertion.
It’s what I like to think of as a “karmic boomerang.” In other words, lousy behavior brings with it severe consequences – said consequences arriving in a rather sudden, unexpected fashion. Kind of like a boomerang does.
All corporations that were involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling need to ask themselves some serious, fundamental questions pertaining to how they do business. Our legal system needs to take a very close look at these companies, and in particular at British Petroleum. For years now, this corporation’s track record in the area of public safety has been called into question. There have been accidents that resulted in employee deaths, property damage, etc. In the wake of these accidents, there have been accusations of cost-cutting at the expense of worker safety.
Such a corporation- one that is arguably preoccupied with profit and not acting with the public welfare in mind, will – sooner or later – receive a wake-up call that cannot be ignored. And the event that is without question the worst consequence to date of BP’s habitual cost-cutting, shortcut taking philosophy is the aforementioned explosion and subsequent oil spillage into the Gulf waters. This open-ended spill is nothing short of catastrophic.
The explosion that occurred five thousand feet below the surface of the ocean has so far caused – by even the most conservative estimate, millions of gallons of oil to stream into the Gulf of Mexico. This event raises a very troubling question; how is it that a company with such a dicey track record for public and employee safety gets issued a permit to drill a hole at such a depth? How did our government and the society become so blind to the potential consequences of such drilling? And how could the corporations involved in this operation have such little foresight for the contingencies involved?
When corporate negligence is suspected of playing a role in a disaster such as the Gulf oil spill, the corporation has a choice. A functional, honest, healthy corporate entity will acknowledge their failure and attempt a good faith effort to deal with and to minimize whatever damage they inadvertently caused. A dishonest, corrupt corporation, on the other hand, will immediately set about to influence public opinion by denying blame, diverting blame, and in general be less than forthcoming about their culpability in the affair.
BP, Haliburton, and Transocean all owe the public and our government full cooperation and full disclosure. Such trustworthy behavior is critical to our future as a nation. This is not a time for business as usual. It is time for profit concerns to be put aside and for the public good to take precedence, as should have been the case all along.