Enbridge Michigan Oil Spill: Patrick Daniel’s Challenge (A)

Case Solution

Gerard Seijts, Thomas Watson
Ivey Publishing ()

In 2010, approximately 20,000 barrels of oil shipped south from Enbridge ended up in Michigan’s Talmadge Creek and contaminated wetlands around Battle Creek and the nearby town of Marshall County, including a section of the Kalamazoo River. The timing of the incident couldn’t have been worse. The pipeline had carried controversial tar sand oil at a time when Enbridge and its competitors were trying to greatly expand their pipeline networks in North America. Additionally, the pipeline failure came after BP’s much larger oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at a time of heightened public intolerance of oil spills. As a result, Enbridge faced enormous public relations and regulatory challenges. Enbridge’s reputation was clearly in jeopardy, as the company had presented itself as a true advocate for corporate social responsibility, which had increased the level of commitment in workplace accident management. The Enbridge CEO faced an almost impossible challenge. He had to demonstrate to American citizens and industry regulators, market watchers, corporate shareholders, and Enbridge employees that his company deserved to be judged on its own merits, rather than the Canadian version of BP. To meet this challenge, he had to prove that Enbridge was run by people who not only wanted to make things right, but could be trusted.

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