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Accelerating Performance by Sharon Toye, Colin Price

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CHAPTER 1The Soft Stuff Really Is the Hard Stuff

It’s a pleasant evening in central London, and we just finished our last meeting—a wide-ranging discussion at Chatham House about some of the changes that could occur in the global political climate. We decide to walk to our dinner appointment.

Walking around St. James’s Square takes us past BP’s global headquarters, and a bad memory surfaces. BP, founded more than a century ago, has been a revered institution in the United Kingdom and has positioned itself for the future with aggressive moves into renewable energy. But there’s that memory of April 20, 2010, when the Macondo oil well erupted below BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig, killing 11 workers and injuring 16 others. The explosion caused the massive rig to become engulfed in a fireball and sink into the Gulf of Mexico. A sea-floor oil gusher flowed for 87 days, and more than 200 million gallons of oil and 225,000 tons of methane gas spilled into the ocean and along more than 1,000 miles of coastline of all the Gulf states—the catastrophe is described as the largest accidental marine oil spill in the world and the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. The toll on local businesses is still being calculated, but it appears that in claims, cleanup efforts, fines, and victim compensation, BP will pay out more than $65 billion.1

How could this happen to such a great company? The investigation into what went wrong blamed “a culture of complacency.” William Reilly, co-chair ...

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