The Power of Corporate Guilt

Fri, 2010-06-18 09:53

Duke Energy, the nation's largest power company, announced today that it is asking suppliers to provide separate pricing for mountain-top removal mined coal vs underground mined coal. It will be interesting to see what the suppliers come back with. At issue is the environmentally destructive practice of removing entire mountain tops (and filling the neighboring valley) just to get access to the coal. Streams are covered, eco-systems ruined, and toxic waste is left uncovered to be washed down stream by rain water.

Aside from the environmental benefits of changing the coal that they buy, I think this may actually be the start of the fall out from the BP oil leak. Perhaps the Fortune 500 companies will start looking at their impact and see what major changes they can make to reduce risk, liability, and environmental impact. Walmart is already leading the charge to become more sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective. In the case of Duke Energy, this may be both a smart public relations move and a defense against future liabilities. While mountain-top coal removal may be acceptable now, what would happen if in ten years time West Virginian residents find some reason to sue and claim liability (like smokers against tabacco companies)?

What other examples of large companies will we see start to reevaluate their supply chains?