Friday, June 27, 2008

Environmental Coverage: Corporations versus Mother Nature?

Legislated environmental laws not only vary from country to country it is also evolving over time – in favor of the environment. Using this rationale, are existing environmental coverage clauses just a thinly veiled right for companies to pollute?

By: Vanessa Uy

Ever since the term Corporate Social Responsibility became the latest buzzword in the world, corporate leaders keeping their promises to shareholders and the company’s “bottom line” is no longer enough. Corporate leaders must also fulfil their promise to their employees and the community that their business practices are not placing our environment at risk. But when push comes to shove, how many of our so-called corporate leaders choose in favor of the environment instead of just “looking out for number one”? Especially when there are Environmental Coverage already available that not only turn “unforeseen disasters” that they create in the first place out of greed and ignorance – or a bit of both – into manageable situations. If you choose to define manageable situations as “immunity from prosecution” to “profiting from their own apathy”, which explains the popularity of every G8 summit to unruly teenagers.

There are now a number of insurance companies that offer environmental coverage with well-backed claims of underwriting authority for environmental risks. Some of them with reputations solidly backed by Triple-A-rated financial strength, the latest Basel Accord compliance and what have you. The question now is, are products like Cleanup Cost Cap and Pollution Legal Liability Select and their ilk nothing more than a thinly veiled rights for companies to pollute while avoiding the pay out of punitive damages?

The most commonly perceived truth states that this problem is either too complicated to the average layman or can be easily manipulated by the demagoguery of every environmentalist / vote-for-me politician come lately who favors passion over rational thought. Fortunately one can easily “hedge their bets” so to speak by utilizing the aid of one of the latest mathematical tools in assessing whether a corporations “green credentials” are nothing more than misspent PR – namely Quantitative Risk Assessment.

As of late, Quantitative Risk Assessment has been utilized by insurance companies I cited before that offer Cleanup Cost Cap and Pollution Legal Liability Select services as a form of corporate transparency. Stating that their products are not just thinly veiled provisos that allow corporations to pollute and ruin our environment with impunity. Insurance companies that provide environmental coverage always stay abreast with the latest Quantitative Risk Assessment findings especially ones pertaining to the protection of our environment. I just hope when insurance companies custom-tailor an environmental coverage policy to a certain company; it would be equitable to the needs of our environment and to the local economy. The world doesn’t need another corporate injustice like the still unresolved compensation claims of the victims of the 1984 Union Carbide insecticide plant disaster in Bhopal, India.

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