The Wall Street Journal:

Federal investigators said cost cutting at oil giant BP compromised safety at a Texas refinery and helped cause a deadly explosion at the plant in March 2005, in findings that significantly raise the legal and financial stakes in the disaster for the London-based oil giant.

Will this story (sub. required) cut yet another pillar out of BP’s sustainability campaign? It suggests that the mundane concerns of business — expenses and profits — weigh directly against other social concerns like safety.

BP faces a criminal probe into the accident, which took place at its refinery in Texas City, Texas. Separately, federal authorities are probing BP’s energy-trading activities and corrosion problems at its big oil field in Alaska.

The findings, by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, are the first allegations by outside investigators of a direct link between the company’s cost cutting and the accident. “Economic pressures were evident in numerous decisions that were causally related to the March 23, 2005, accident,” the agency said in a five-page press release issued Monday.

The article quotes BP denying the findings:

Ronnie Chappell, a BP spokesman in Houston, said Monday the company stood by its earlier findings. BP investigators “didn’t find evidence of budgetary decisions which were an immediate cause or critical factor in this terrible tragedy,” he said.

Stories like this underscore the need for real journalists to look deeply into corporate sustainability, in all its complicated facets, rather than painting the bright green picture corporations often present.

I’m not knocking corporate sustainability — but it needs the light of transparency, so we can see what it really means.

So far, there’s been far too little of that kind of reporting.