The grading period has ended, and it’s time to find out who got the high scores and who’s failing the class. According to a new environmental racism scorecard released by shareholder advocacy group As You Sow, ExxonMobil came in last. In other words, an F minus.
The group’s recent evaluation of the 500 largest publicly traded companies is an updated version of its March scorecard. The earlier version looked at 26 indicators of racial justice, such as workplace diversity and how often employees of color got choice promotions. But people criticized that version for not considering how these companies polluted nonwhite communities. Newly added criteria weigh whether a company acknowledges environmental justice issues and researches any penalties it has incurred for pollution.
“We see the environmental and racial justice as completely linked,” said Olivia Knight, manager of As You Sow’s Racial Justice Initiative, as reported by Grist. “You can’t have racial justice without acknowledging and remedying environmental justice.”
None of the 500 companies got an A, unless you grade on a curve set for very bad students. CVS and Microsoft tied for first place with a lousy 60%. This poor score is still higher than the energy sector, which averaged 3%. Seven companies managed to plummet into negative numbers. ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum and Valero Energy were in this tier of companies that have done so much harm to nonwhite and/or low-income communities that they couldn’t even make it to zero.
For example, ExxonMobil’s crude oil refinery in Beaumont, Texas routinely fails to comply with the Clean Air Act. The majority-Black neighborhood nearby is breathing those carcinogens. “Environmental racism is built into their business plan,” Knight said. “They have allowed all of these environmental violations to become just business as usual.” The fossil fuel giant scored negative-23%.
Then there’s Marathon Petroleum, whose oil refineries near southwest Detroit leak chemicals and release vapors that have increased asthma and cancer among Black and brown communities. Factor in its $1.5 billion in health, safety and environmental penalties since 2000, and you see why the company scored negative-17% on the scorecard.
Will getting a failing score shame fossil fuel companies into cleaning up their acts? Some of them seem beyond shame. But we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
Lead image via Roy Luck