Can we forget the past? 1

Walmart has become a retail superstore, offering one-stop shopping with very low prices. But over the years, the company has been criticized for its large ecological footprint and other social concerns. Walmart just released its 2012 Global Responsibility Report that boasts of notable achievements from the past year including 80% waste reduction, locally grown produce expansion, the women’s economic empowerment initiative, more affordable healthy food choices, use of 1.1 billion kWh of renewable energy, supplier tracking, and improvements in diversity and inclusion.

Just over two years ago, BP faced the nation’s most catastrophic offshore oil disaster. As a result, BP has been forced to clean up environmentally, economically, and socially.  Despite the events of 2010, BP is no stranger to sustainability. The company changed its logo in 2001 to the current green and yellow sunflower symbol, and introduced the slogan, “Beyond Petroleum.” BP’s recent sustainability efforts in 2011 focused on safety and risk management. The company has also invested over $6 billion dollars in alternative energy, including oil sands, shale gas, biofuels, and wind.  BP is not shy about the mess they have been in and is attempting to move forward by correcting their mistakes and focusing on the global energy crisis.

It is clear these 2 companies have faced their fair share of criticism, while making great strides in sustainability.  Is society ready or willing to forget the past and see these companies in the new light that they are casting as they move into the future?

One comment

  1. Reading any oil and gas company sustainability report is an exercise in parsing carefully bland wording — “responding to stakeholder concerns,” “extracting resources responsibly,” and so on — but never more so than in reading BP’s 2010 Sustainability Review. In the company’s first CSR report since the catastrophic Gulf oil spill nearly one year ago, BP has, perhaps to its credit, put the issue front and center. The report’s cover consists of a photo from the spill, and the first third of the 50-page report focuses on the disaster and BP’s response. Despite all the ink given to the spill throughout the report, you could make the argument that BP is trying to start over, inasmuch as a global energy conglomerate can start fresh. Among the most notable elements of the report is that there are essentially zero goals for future performance listed. Sure, BP says it plans to invest an additional $1 billion in “low-carbon energy markets” in 2011, but when you get to the alternative energy section, you only find that statement repeated, with no hard goals or even suggestions as to where they will invest that money. The report offers a broad overview of the benefits of biofuels, wind and solar, but it seems likely that BP will plug a good chunk of that commitment into natural gas extraction, given its prominence in the report’s section on “meeting the energy challenge.” There is one chart that, for me at least, really lays out the gist of the report. A small version is below, you can click on the image for the full-sized version.

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