BP may well have plugged the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico but it has lost an enormous amount of credibility and support through the months long saga with one major German-based company boycotting it’s products. Let this be a warning to others writes Patrick O’Leary. In the July edition of FleetWatch, I wrote that if transporters don’t start getting their act together regarding their environmental responsibilities, they are going to be chopped , firstly from the supplier list of the multi-nationals and secondly from local companies who will increasingly want their transporters to be green.
For those readers who thought this to be a grandiose statement best ignored as the hysterical ranting of an off-beat journalist, let this story act a warning.
As is well known, the past months have seen the world gasp at the horror of the environmental disaster caused by BP in the Gulf of Mexico. While some have merely expressed their verbal outrage, others have taken serious action , one such company being the German motor oil manufacturer, Liqui Moly GmbH, which issued a statement saying it was boycotting BP – represented in Germany by the brands Aral and Castrol – over the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
“With immediate effect, BP and all its subsidiaries have been removed from our list of suppliers and our company vehicles will no longer be filling up at Aral”, said Ernst Prost, owner and CEO of Liqui Moly.
“With this action, we are taking a stand against the irresponsible behaviour and environmental damage,’ he continued. “On a smaller scale, we try to prevent damage to the environment occurring as we handle our raw materials day after day. But when it comes to the big scale, the BP-Aral-Castrol concern is lacking any sense of responsibility. I cannot and will not support this behaviour.
Liqui Moly GmbH, from Ulm in South Germany, offers a wide range of qualitative high-quality products such as motor oils, additives, vehicle care products and service products. The products are sold in Germany and in 90 other countries , including South Africa. It does not drill for oil itself. Instead, it purchases it and refines it to produce motor oils.
“But even if we don’t do the drilling ourselves, we obviously make use of the product others drill for us. And the drilling and use of oil as a raw material is something that puts pressure on the environment. This means that it is even more important to do our duty – and all we can – to ensure that the consequences are kept to an absolute minimum. And that is exactly what BP isn’t doing,” says Prost.
On hearing of this, I contacted the company as the move reawakened the content of an interview I had many years ago , in 1991 in fact – with Dr George Winter, chairman of the International Network of Environmental Management who was visiting South Africa as a guest of the Industrial Environmenal Forum of Southern Africa. He was also the author of what was then a best selling book titled ‘Business and the Environment’.
During the interview, he told me that it wasn’t a rush of blood to the moral head of big business that served to change the thinking around environmental responsibility in Europe. Rather, it was consumer pressure that did it. He reckoned that if that pressure had not been applied, many big corporations would still be acting irresponsibly. Liqui Moly’s decision to boycott BP was a deje vu of that statement. I pointed this out to Prost, and this is the reply I got from him personally.
Dear Mr O’Leary
Thank you for your opinions regarding my response to one of the most tragic environmental catastrophes caused by human hand, or should I say, the hand of a company.
I would like to start by saying that this was not an easy decision to make, because we are aware that this step not only affects the irresponsible managers at BP who allowed this catastrophe to occur as a result of their inattention, neglect and negligence and a conscious lack of safety regulations, but that it may also affect the real workers of this company and their filling stations.
What has happened is not a catastrophe in the sense of an unavoidable accident but it is, as we are constantly seeing on the news, the inevitable consequence of sloppiness, greed and irresponsibility.
Large concerns have long been a thorn in my side. Not just my direct competitors, but also those multi-national concerns that care so little about people and animals that they will literally step over dead bodies, albeit ‘only’ dead animals, as we’ve seen in the case of BP/ARAL/Castrol.
All too often in the past, these capital and profit driven multi-national companies have trampled the entrepreneurial values of the free democratic market economy underfoot. While medium-sized companies are fighting for their existence alongside their workers and employees to safeguard the branches in their own countries, these multi-national concerns take their holdings undeterred to a tax haven, shift jobs to countries with lower wages and use every kind of loophole to avoid national regulations in the light of a lack of international unity.
I am well aware that our boycott of BP/ARAL/Castrol requires a lot of courage, since we are a part of the oil industry and we do rely on supplies of raw materials from the large oil drilling companies. But we cannot let this behaviour continue!
The trigger for our response (and essentially the straw that broke the camel’s back) was a photograph of the chief person responsible, a carefree BP boss Tony Hayward, sailing a racing yacht around an island or two. Any owner of a medium-sized company would have long since been held accountable (and probably locked up). Surely a responsible boss has better things to do in such a situation than to go gallivanting off on a sailing trip. (Editor’s Note: Tony Hayward has since been replaced by Robert Dudley as chief executive of BP. Hayward stepped down following criticism about the way he handled the spill.)
We are well aware that our boycott of BP/ARAL/Castrol will probably , to put it bluntly , not register on the Richter scale. But it is something that I, as a human being, a citizen and a democrat need to do. I need to voice my concerns, say what I think and how I feel. And to then act accordingly. It is not just about BP; it is about having the necessary social insubordination to shout out and jump up when things go wrong.
We need to clearly show those responsible – the so-called elite – that we do not always agree with them and make sure that they know what we think, for example, when politicians irresponsibly generate mountains of debt or dubious tax savings packages. Concerns that only listen to the sound of money and which push aside the responsibility for people, countries and nature must also be shown the red card.
When push comes to shove, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that BP will be in a position to get the mess they have created in the Gulf of Mexico under control as quickly as possible. Schadenfreude (roughly trans;lated means ‘gloating’) won’t help the situation, but public pressure will!
LIQUI MOLY GmbH
Wow! That’s courageous stuff and on a broader scale, serves to give credence to my earlier statement that if transporters don’t start getting their act together regarding their environmental responsibilities, they are going to be chopped. Read again above what Dr George Winter said back in 1991 and then combine that with the actions taken by Ernst Prost. If that doesn’t convince, then nothing will.