Robert Klijn: Most mainstream portfolio managers had no idea that BP had been cutting
corners on safety procedures to such an extent and were surprised about the incident.
Most ESG specialists already knew about the underinvestment in safety. However, especially
in the UK, their portfolio management colleagues still invested in BP because of the high dividend payments. ESG specialist Nick Robins was the first to tell me about the poor safety records at BP, well ahead of the explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery in 2005 and the series of incidents that happened thereafter. At that time he was Head of Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) funds at Henderson Global Investors.
Henderson’s retail SRI funds had sold out of BP shares in 2003 on the basis of their views
about the company’s ability to deliver strong environmental, health and safety performance
across the business. (Today he leads the Climate Change Centre of Excellence at HSBC.)
At the time Henderson was concerned about the performance in some of the company’s
businesses – for example in January 2002, the company was fined GBP 1 million following
a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive at its Grangemouth refinery in the UK. In Alaska too, a 2001 review found a serious backlog of safety-critical maintenance, followed by an outbreak of ‘whistle-blowing’ by concerned employees, including testimony to Congress in March 2002.