This paper explores the motivations for corporate engagement in environmentally sustainable behavior. Although there are several reasons for companies to apply environmentally sustainable business practices, the most enticing are economic. Like a pendulum, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 responded to a full left swing of potential major disasters and brought the weight to the far right. These regulations established requirements for the response equipment/personnel needed in the event of a worst-case discharge. Also due to the significant efforts of established pollution prevention regulations, the past decade has seen a drastic drop in the number of spills and the amount of oil discharged.

The strides toward improvement are impressive, but the reduction in spills, seems to be leading toward regionalization of local response assets and elimination of excess duplication by not replacing unserviceable equipment. Effective responses are also a key part of environmental sustainability. The end result could be a very expensive response, which could be simply averted by retaining current levels of local response capability.

Understanding that the primary objective of any company is profit, environmental protection can provide one path toward financial reward. This includes, but is not limited to a “green” public image, which generally increases the consumer base and profits. The economic benefits of environmentally sound business practices, however, are not always initially apparent. Therefore, monetary gain may not always present sufficient motivation. In this case, proponents of environmental sustainability can cite social responsibility as cause, or look to the federal government for support and control.

In an effort to stop the swing of the pendulum between a major disaster and the inability to respond, companies should be encouraged to maintain response capabilities at their current levels and to recognize that a loss of local response resources could be both an environmental and financial nightmare.

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Author notes

1 The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not represent any other organization.