A global energy company was decommissioning a major offshore oil storage platform which had been in service for many decades.
The platform contained industrial residues not considered by the company as hazardous to the environment.
Extensive research was carried out on the potential environmental effects of disposal.
Independent marine authorities and other groups were consulted on any potential effects of disposal in deep ocean waters. Advice was received that the effects on the marine environment would be minimal. Dismantling the platform onshore could present greater environmental issues.
Approval for disposal was sought from the host government and after due process was granted.
However, one influential environmental group considered ‘dumping’ the platform offshore was unacceptable and a threat to the marine environment.
The environmental group began a campaign against the company’s proposal. While the platform was being towed to the offshore site, the group attempted to board it via helicopter and boat. Extensive media coverage followed, along with support building from governments in the region and others opposing offshore disposal.
In this situation, it was clear the company’s reputation could be damaged.
Company management and a First Principles consultant became part of a corporate team responding to the developing crisis.
Communications networks within the company were set up to brief stakeholders on the company position – from governments, shareholders and customers to the media.
Evidence was presented on the views of marine groups about offshore disposal. It was also emphasized that offshore disposal had host government approval.
Media opposition was also growing and specific briefings for journalists across the region were set up. Responses were made to negative TV programs on the growing crisis via interviews by senior company executives. Minimizing damage to the company’s reputation through communicating the environmental facts on offshore disposal became a priority.
Opposition to offshore disposal underlined that public perceptions of corporate behaviour should not be underestimated. In today’s viral, mass communications world, corporate reputation can be a target.
The idea of offshore disposal was eventually dropped by the company. Roundtable stakeholder discussions were set up to discuss alternative ways of platform disposal. The platform was eventually towed to offshore waters close to one of the company’s operations. It was given government approval to be dismantled and converted into a base for an onshore jetty.