Enbridge Michigan Oil Spill: Patrick Daniel's Challenge (A)
(10 pages of text)
In 2010, approximately 20,000 barrels of oil being shipped south by Enbridge spilled into Michigan’s Talmadge Creek, contaminating wetlands around Battle Creek and the nearby county seat of Marshall, including a stretch of the Kalamazoo River. The timing of the incident could not have been worse. The pipeline had been carrying controversial tar sands oil at a time when Enbridge and its competitors were seeking to greatly expand their pipeline networks across North America. Moreover, the pipeline failure came on the heels of BP's much larger oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, amid a period of heightened public intolerance toward oil spills. As a result, Enbridge faced massive public relations (PR) and regulatory challenges. Enbridge's reputation was clearly at risk since the company had promoted itself as a true believer in corporate social responsibility, which had raised the stakes when dealing with the industrial accident. The CEO of Enbridge faced an almost impossible challenge. He needed to prove to American citizens — and to industry regulators, market watchers, company shareholders and Enbridge employees — that his company deserved to be judged on its own merits, not as a Canadian version of BP. To meet this challenge, he needed to demonstrate that Enbridge was run by people who not only wanted to make amends but could be trusted to do so.
The specific objectives of the case are two-fold. The first objective is to demonstrate that good leadership involves the 3 C's — competencies, character and the commitment to do the hard work of leadership. The case, written as a result of research documented in Leadership on Trial: A Manifesto for Leadership Development, illustrates the leadership framework. The second objective is to highlight both best practices in crisis communications and the crisis recovery process in a charged and public setting. The case can be taught during an 80-minute session and may be co-taught with an instructor from communications.
United States, Large, 2010
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