Corporate Social Responsibility writer for Justmeans, Antonio Pasolini is a journalist based in Brazil who writes about alternative energy, green living and sustainability. He also edits Energyrefuge.com, a top web destination for news and comment on renewable energy and Elpis.org, a recycled paper bag/magazine distributed from health food stores in London, formerly his hometown for over a decade....
Public Eye 'Awards' Companies That Go Against the Grain of Sustainability and Social Responsibility
The Public Eye Awards, a Berne Declaration and Greenpeace Switzerland initiative to shame the worst cases of contempt for the environment and social responsibility, is on again. The event is scheduled to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Darvos, Switzerland, later in the month. It will take place on January 27 (noon at Hotel Montana) when the recipients of the Global Award (jury selected) and the People's Award (selected by the public) will be "honored."
The six nominees in 2012 are: Barclays (UK), Freeport McMoRan (US), Samsung (KOR), Tepco (J), Vale (BRA) and the Swiss corporation Syngenta. Online voting for the 2012 People's Award has already started. The short list presents the six most scandalous cases, selected by an expert panel out of a total of over 40 cases nominated by NGOs. Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, will speak in Davos at the awards ceremony press conference about the global crisis.
The British banking giant Barclays, the world's fourth-largest bank, has been listed because of its food speculation activities. The organizers of the award say it has been driving up global food prices at the expense of the poorest. In just the second half of 2010, 44 million people worldwide were driven into extreme poverty due to rising food prices, affecting mainly women in the Global South.
Another contender is U.S. mining corporation Freeport McMoRan. It has been operating Grasberg Mine, the world's largest gold and copper mine, in West Papua for 45 years "without regard for nature or people." The mine produces 230,000 tons of tailings contaminated with heavy metals every day, resulting in a blanket of waste rock with a radius of up to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and up to 15 meters (50 feet) deep that kills everything in its path and threatens a World Heritage site. Greenpeace says Freeports activities lead to "frequent and blatant" human rights violations, including the torture of mine opponents.
Samsung, which we wrote about the other day in connection with its energy efficient products, is not doing so well on the social responsibility front. The South Korean giant has been nominated for allegedly using banned and highly-toxic substances in its factories without informing or protecting its workers. At least 140 workers were diagnosed with cancer, of which at least 50 young workers have died. Samsung continues to deny its responsibility in those cases.
Tepco has been listed for the role it played in Japan's nuclear disaster after the tsunami that ravaged the country's coast in March 2011. Greenpeace said the meltdown at Fukushima and the resulting radioactive contamination of people, land and sea could have been prevented. "The company also provided information that was verifiably false or very late in coming. A culture of favors, cover-ups and falsifications reigns at Tepco," Public Eye said.
Brazilian mining company Vale, the fifth nominee, is Brazil's second-largest corporation, the world's second-largest mining firm, and the largest global producer of iron ore. The corporation has been listed for its 60-year track record of human rights violations, inhumane working conditions and disregard for the environment. The company is one of the interested parts in the construction of the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon, the main reason for its nomination.
The last company running for the award is Syngenta because of its "highly toxic" products. The company is the maker of the paraquat herbicide, which Public Eye says has been killing and poisoning users in the southern hemisphere. Another of Syngenta's products, the pesticide Atrazine, has contaminated 90% of drinking water in the American Midwest. The corporation conducted a smear campaign against a scientist critical of Atrazine, and attempted to buy his silence.
Image credit: Public Eye Awards