When we think of companies that stand out as role models of exceptionally responsible behavior in the realm of sustainability, Halliburton is hardly one of the first to spring to mind. Which is why I was a little surprised to learn that “the company we love to hate” was just named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) as both a North American and a World leader. This means that they were considered to be in the top 10% among companies in the oil field services sector.
Though the circumstances seem somewhat dubious, the selection was made, according to DJSI, based on “thorough analysis of corporate economic, environmental and social performance, assessing issues such as corporate governance, risk management, branding, climate change mitigation, supply chain standards and labor practices.” The DJSI focuses on how a company recognizes the risks and opportunities arising from sustainability issues in its business strategy as well as the company’s economic, environmental and social impacts.
Halliburton was selected as one of seven world leaders and two North American leaders out of forty companies that applied, winning best in class for Human Capital Development, Standards for Suppliers, Corporate Governance, and Customer Relationship Management. These rankings were apparently enough to overcome lower scores in the environmental and social categories.
There is a bit of an irony here, in that Halliburton’s addition to the index fills a vacancy that occurred when BP was removed based on an “extraordinary events” clause in the index guidelines. According to a DJSI press release back in June, “The extent of the oil-spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and its foreseeable long-term effects on the environment and the local population — in addition to the economic effects and the long-term damage to the reputation of the company — were included in the analysis leading up to BP’s removal.”
Meanwhile, Halliburton is clearly implicated as a contributor to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The extent of their responsibility is still pending a complete investigation. BP leaders are claiming that Halliburton played a significant role, particularly in their efforts to seal the Macondo well with cement which did not hold. But for whatever reason, DJSI saw fit to give them the benefit of the doubt on this.
It makes you wonder if they had had the list back in 1984, whether Union Carbide would have been named to it with special recognition.
I visited Halliburton’s web site to check out their most recent sustainability report. I had to go back to 2008, since for some reason they did not show one for last year. In the report they disclose the fact that the last time they were assessed by DJSI, they were judged below average in the following categories:
- Codes of Conduct/Corruption/Bribery
- Releases to the Environment
- Operational Eco-Efficiency
- Stakeholder Engagement
They were not included in the index that year.
This is the point in the story where I put up my hands and say, “really folks, I’m not making this up.” Check the links. This really happened.
And if this all seems rather Orwellian to you, well then, welcome to my world.
RP Siegel is co-author of the sustainability thriller Vapor Trails, about an oil company and their impact.
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