Weeks After $20 Million Pollution Fine, Carnival Brags About "Corporate Citizenship" Award

A judge nearly threw Carnival Corporation's top executives in jail last April, after the company got caught dumping polluted water into the sea despite being explicitly ordered by a court to stop doing so. Ultimately, the world's largest cruise company pleaded guilty to probation violations and agreed to pay a $20 million fine earlier this month over the pollution dumps. A court had already forced Carnival to pay a $40 million fine over different pollution-dumping problems in 2016.

So how is the Miami-based Carnival handling the news? By bragging about being good, responsible corporate citizens, naturally.

Really. The party-barge company today blasted out a press release announcing that it had, inexplicably, been named one of the 100 best "corporate citizens" in America by something called CR Magazine, which has published corporate-responsibility rankings for the last 20 years.

CR Magazine published its list in May, before Carnival formally pleaded guilty to polluting the ocean in violation of a court order. But Carnival today — for reasons that must be unrelated — decided to issue a press release bragging about coming in 94th on the list.

"Along with our 120,000 employees around the world, we are proud to once again be recognized by CR Magazine," Roger Frizzell, chief communications officer for Carnival, said today.

Other folks who pay attention to the cruise industry could barely choke down their laughter. James Walker, a Miami lawyer who runs a prominent cruise blog, asked if the award was "an April Fools' joke."
For what it's worth, CR Magazine's entire list seems extremely dubious. Other "responsible" companies mentioned include the Gap and Nike (famous for using sweatshop workers), the tobacco giant Altria (which owns Marlboro cigarettes), big banks including CitiGroup and Goldman Sachs, pharmaceutical giants such as Merck, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, and even carbon-polluting power and oil companies, including XCEL Energy and ConocoPhillips.

Those companies somehow were recognized despite being judged according to their records on the environment, human rights, and climate change. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, two companies that quite literally manufacture missiles, military equipment, and airplanes that drop bombs, also made the list. Last year, Saudi Arabia used a Lockheed Martin missile to blow up a school bus full of 40 children.

Compared to bomb manufacturers and Marlboro cigarettes, Carnival doesn't seem quite as overtly evil. But the company's environmental and climate-change records are poor. Most obviously, its gargantuan cruise ships produce an ungodly amount of pollution — a recent report from the European Federation for Transport and Environment found that Carnival's ships spew more sulfur dioxide into the air than all of the cars in Europe combined.

But Carnival for years has been whacked for even more cartoonishly evil acts of water pollution. In 2016, the U.S. government hit Carnival with the aforementioned $40 million fine after the company's subsidiary, Princess Cruises, was caught pouring a slurry of oily, contaminated water directly into the ocean off the coast of England. The fine remains the largest-ever settlement for an American company caught deliberately polluting the environment.

Then, just this month, Carnival was forced to pay $20 million more, after the Miami Herald broke news that the company had been falsifying records, communicating in secret with the U.S. Coast Guard, covering up dirty ships before inspectors could check them out, and, most notably, dumping polluted waste (including plastic) into water near the Bahamas. Corporate citizenship, indeed.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.