It has been almost eight years since the Exxon Valdez ran agroundon Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound Alaska and there are still questionsof whether a lesson was learnt. We hear story upon story about themistakes of corporations and how the responsible parties avoid conflictand slander by the “show a lot, give a little” tactic.
In this case weare faced with a situation were the upper management at Exxon had nothingto face but the music. I think that before we can criticize or justify the response of Exxon’smanagement teams, we have to look at the objectives. The primary objectivewould be to maintain market position; which would be not only to the bestinterest of the managers but all stakeholders involved. The second wouldclearly be to find the equilibrium point that both Exxon and all partiescould live with. There were a lot of parties to keep happy which wouldexplain the millions (billions even) of dollars spent for the clean up andreimburse victims for damages. Everyone had their hands out, taking asmuch as they could in the name of not only compensatory but also punitivedamages.
The managers not only had the responsibility of rehabilitationbut to keep the direction of the company flowing in a positive direction.They had to decide where the real needs were and where they could cutcosts.I believe they completed their objectives in both cases toacceptable extents. What Exxon faced, was a lot of time and money. A total of 3.4billion dollars was paid out in the 1991 fiscal year alone (more than halfof the profits for the period) .
An abundance money and time was alsospent in the courtrooms defending the corporation from the onslaught oflawsuits from surrounding communities and organizations. Some of theinvolved included a National Forest, four National Wildlife Refuges, threeNational Parks, five State Parks four sate Critical Habitat Areas and aState Game Sanctuary ii.On account of so many people and organizations being affected,Exxon had not only the costs but also the time and relations aspect of thedisaster. Press conferences, litigation, trials, committees, and clean upefforts took precedence over normal business activities. First the hiringof contractors to help clean the mess plus the weekly meetings with thelocals and activists to discuss the steps needed to insure results. The1989 efforts included containing; cleaning and rescuing oiled wildlife.
Skimmers (to remove the oil), booms (to keep oil from reaching salmonhatcheries), and the most impressive “Mosquito Fleet” were a few of thetactics used by management for these circumstances .Shoreline surveys and limited clean up work occurred in1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994 . Crews from Exxon, the state and federalgovernments visited eighty-one sites in Prince William Sound and the KenaiPeninsula. Assessments from 1992 determined that the cost and potentialenvironmental impact of further clean up was greater than the problemscaused by leaving remaining oil in place.
Where I believe Exxon escapedwithout a fight was future preventative plans. I believe people were outfor self-gain and forgot their obligations to the mother earth.