Top 10 Corporate Criminals List
Many corporations are complicit in violating human rights and the environment. As the free trade market continues to push forward the global economy, holding corporations accountable for their poor practices becomes difficult. Unfortunately, corporations are working harder than ever to cover abuses instead of preventing them.
This does not have to be the reality. People can use their purchasing power to endorse Fair Trade and pressure companies and boycott those that violate human rights and the environment. In doing so there is potential to pressure these companies to put people ahead of profits.
Global Exchange has compiled a list of the top ten “most wanted” corporations of 2013 based on issues like unlivable working conditions, corporate seizures of indigenous lands, and contaminating the environment, just to name a few.
The Top Ten Corporate Criminals list is a guide to learn about what companies like Nike, Shell, Syngenta, and others you might have heard less about are doing to undermine human rights and the environment so that you can get informed and involved in combating the injustice. The more you know, the less corporations can continue to act unfavorably in the public eye. Share the list with friends, family, and co-workers. Call CEO’s themselves and network with other non-profit organizations doing work on the issue.
We at Global Exchange encourage you to exercise your right as a global citizen to promote social justice and defend the Earth.
1. Shell/ Royal Dutch Petroleum for contamination of the air and waterways of the Niger Delta and disenfranchising native Ogoni villagers by putting their health, safety, property, and well-being at stake.
2. Nike for exploiting workers in sweatshops, failing to provide safe work environments and contracting with cotton factories that use slave labor.
3. Ahava for operating and profiteering on confiscated Palestinian lands, violating international law, and misleading consumers of the exact location where their products are being made.
4. Syngenta for marketing harmful pesticides to farmers, contaminating waterways, and failing to assume responsibility for harm done to people exposed to their chemicals and the declining bee populations.
5. Blackwater International (Xe Services) for profiteering from sending private weapons and under-qualified contractors abroad, creating opportunities for violence and law evasion.
6. Barrick Gold for contaminating waterways in Latin America and failing to uphold safety promises to nearby residents.
7. Herakles Farms for imposing unwanted palm oil farms in Cameroon, seizing local farmlands, and mono-cropping.
8. Nestlé for unnecessarily marketing infant formula to nursing mothers, pushing bottled water sales, and failing to stop child labor in cocoa fields.
9. Clear Channel Communications for monopolizing media outlets, reducing diversity, censoring content and pushing a political agenda.
10. SNC Lavalin for making major campaign contributions, bribing authorities for contracts, and misusing public funds.
(Dis)honorable Mention: POSCO for efforts to confiscate villager lands, scheming with governmental leaders to coerce and harass villagers to build a private sea port and steel mine against the community's will.
1. Shell/ Royal Dutch Petroleum
CEO: Peter Voser
Chairman: Jormin Ollila
Shell Energy North America:
1000 Main, 12th Floor
Houston, TX 77002
The Royal Dutch Shell Company has a legacy of extracting oil from the Niger Delta of Nigeria since 1958. Between 1990 and 1995, Shell, in collusion with the military government, financed the use of deadly force against the Ogoni people, who strongly protested Shell’s presence in the region due to the stark devastation the company had on the environment. The Delta Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Project deemed the Niger Delta as, “as one of the world’s most severely petroleum-impacted ecosystems.”
Twenty seven million people call the Niger Delta home, and of that number, 75% make their livelihoods with the environment, through farming and fishing for market or subsistence living. Because of Shell’s operations in the region, the Ogoni have become impoverished, as their lands have been co-opted by big business. Additionally, Shell engages in gas flaring, a byproduct of oil drilling, which harms the environment and people living in close proximity to it by contaminating the air with toxic fumes that then contaminate waterways through precipitation. These harmful chemicals are carcinogens that can induce convulsions, chromosomal damage, and birth defects. The World Bank has also stated that gas flaring has contributed to more greenhouse gas emissions than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa combined. The Federal High Court of Nigeria has even condemned the use of gas flaring as a violation of human rights, yet Shell, among other oil companies, have continued gas flaring behind a slew of excuses.
The Ogoni have continually accused Shell of its damage against the environment and their people, yet Shell has done little to compensate them. The execution of activist Ken Saro Wiwa in 1995 brought international attention to Shell’s activities. The latest lawsuit involving Shell is Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Company. Esther Kiobel, sought relief from Shell for crimes against humanity, torture, and extrajudicial executions of the Ogoni including the death of her husband, Dr. Barinem Kiobel. However, in 2010, the majority opinion of the lower court dismissed the lawsuit and found that the Alien Tort Statute (a statute that allows foreign plaintiffs to file suits in U.S. courts) would not be upheld. Judge Pierre Leval concurred that ATS regulation could not be applied to corporations, but only to individuals who have done harm. Today, the policy does not provide any accountability for Shell’s complicity in the torture of the Ogoni or its impacts on the environment.
Working On It:
- Friends of the Earth
- Center for Constitutional Rights
- EarthRights International
- Amnesty International
CEO: Mark Parker
Chairman: Phillip Knight
Nike Inc. Phone: 1-800-344-6453
1 Bowerman Drive
Beaverton, OR 97005-6453
Nike, one of the world’s leading producers of footwear, sporting goods, and apparel has come under major scrutiny for outsourcing labor to developing countries to exploit cheap labor and maximize profits since the mid 1990’s. Global Exchange has tracked and researched these abuses and in 2001 published, Still Waiting for Nike to Do It: Nike’s Labor Practices in three years since CEO Phil Knight’s speech to the National Press Club. The book covers all abuses of Nike sweatshops from inadequate wages and working hours to safety hazards and the inability to organize. This business model has tarnished Nike’s reputation dramatically and since then Nike’s public relations representatives and CEO have made numerous statements as to how it will improve their workers’ circumstances. Nike’s responsibility clause as stated on their website reads:
“We’ve spent more than 15 years working with contract factories on these issues [worker rights and protections, living conditions for workers, wages and the environmental impacts of manufacturing processes] setting high expectations for workers and the environment, providing training and tools to help factories meet those expectations, and assessing their performance.” –Nike.Inc. II. “How We Do Business”
Despite promises to make changes since the mid 90s, Nike continues to use the same business model that disenfranchises workers in countries with few to no labor regulations. In April of 2013, Nike was exposed for doing business with Daewoo International, one of the largest perpetrators of forced labor in Uzbekistan. According to laborrights.org workers under Daewoo International have been imprisoned, harassed, threatened, and tortured by the current Uzbek regime for speaking out against human rights abuses. 141 signatories have called upon Nike to withdraw its business dealings with Daewoo International. Human rights organization leaders have made bold statements toward Nike on this issue, urging the company to cut off ties with the company. Ruslan Nurullaev of AwarenessProjects.org stated, “…Nike’s decision to protect Daewoo sends a dangerous message to other companies and damages the efforts of Uzbek citizens who have risked their lives to bring justice to Uzbekistan’s cotton fields.” Uzbekistan human rights organizations have also come forward in protest of Nike. “Nike would apparently rather harbor companies in its supply chain that are profiting from human rights violations than help bring an end to Uzbekistan’s heinous forced labor system,” says Umida Niyazova, founder of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights.
And as recently as May 29, 2013, the International Business Times reported that Cambodian workers in one of Nike’s factories staged demonstrations and strikes against the company, demanding a $14 per month pay increase to keep pace with rising transportation costs, rent, and health care in the country. At the time of the worker action, most workers were earning the $74/month minimum wage. The Cambodian police equipped with riot gear were instructed to remove 3,000 protesting workers and in the process injured 23.
Working on it:
- Team Sweat
- United Students Against Sweatshops
- Labour Behind the Label
- War on Want
- Global Exchange
- Sweatfree Communities
CEO: Alana Drell-Szyfer
Chairman: Arie Cohen
411 5th Avenue New York, NY 10016
Relations between Israel and Palestine have remained contentious for the past 65 years due to failed peace brokering and unsustainable accords. Following the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, historic Palestine was divided into three parts, Israel (77% of the region), the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. Hundreds of thousands of indigenous Palestinians were made refugees and forced to find homes in neighboring countries, if not in Gaza and the West Bank. In 1967, war ensued again leaving Israel in control of the West Bank and Gaza. As of 2005, Israel has disengaged from Gaza, but has resettled Israeli citizens living there into the northern West Bank while still maintaining a blockade on Gaza.
The United Nations condemns the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as illegal under Resolution 242 that states the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force.” However, Israeli settlements continue to be established to this day in many areas of the West Bank, fracturing the hope of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. The settlement of Mitzpe Shalem, established in 1970 on occupied land, is the home of AHAVA, a cosmetics company that uses mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea to make high end skin care products. Dead Sea mud has generated copious amounts of revenue for AHAVA, Mitzpe Shalem, and other shareholders such as Gaon Holdings and Shamrock Holdings since 1988. Meanwhile, Palestinians are unable to enjoy the economic benefits of their confiscated lands and cannot move freely among Israeli settlements let alone live in them.
Misinformation is also proliferated internationally as all of AHAVA’s products read “made in Israel.” False advertising hides the fact that purchasing AHAVA products finances injustices against Palestinians and diminishes Israel’s accountability in its unlawful land seizures. Boycotting AHAVA is one action of many in a larger movement known as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) which calls upon the international community to economically withdraw from Israel to pressure the nation into abiding by international law and thus end its’ occupation profiteering.
Working on it:
CEO Michael T. Mack
Chairman: Michele Demare
US Corporate Headquarters:
3411 Silverside Road
Wilmington, DE 19810
Business and politics often coincide in the global economy. When corporations, workers, local communities, and the environment converge, consensus building gets muddled and tension is likely to brew. Syngenta, one of the world’s largest seed and pesticide producers, is at the crux of this very problem.
Syngenta has been accused of producing harmful pesticides that harm agriculture instead of cultivating it. For example, Syngenta has developed and marketed a strong pesticide known as thiamethoxam, which allegedly protects honeybees from varroa mites. However, Beekeepers who have used thiamethoxam have noticed that their bees have died in great numbers. In defense, Syngenta officials have said, “there is no direct correlation between neonicotinoids use and poor bee health, although a correlation can be drawn between bee losses and the presence of the varroa mite.” Activists have voiced that all variables should be explored in the death of their bees, including the use thiamethoxam, an extremely likely culprit. The quick decline of the bee population is detrimental to global food production and the proliferation of counterproductive pesticides intensifies this risk.
Additionally, Syngenta has been greatly involved in dirty politics. Another one of Syngenta’s controversial pesticides is atrazine, which is used on cornfields throughout the mid-western United States. Atrazine has been very popular among farmers since the 1950s because of its effectiveness in killing various kinds of weeds. However, reports indicate that atrazine has had harmful effects on individuals in close proximity to where it is being used. Research has revealed that atrazine has been found in waterways from field run-off and has also become airborne after spray treatments to crops. Studies suggest that atrazine is harmful to fetuses and decreases men’s sperm quality. Another study has shown that women living in areas of higher concentration of atrazine in the water supply were more likely to give birth to children with genital abnormalities. When a class action lawsuit was pressed against Syngenta for its business dealing atrazine, Syngenta criticized the suit by asserting that banning atrazine would be a disservice to farmers. A statement from the company reads, “ [the suit] would effectively ban the use of this critical product that has been the backbone of safe weed control for more than 50 years.” Additionally, Syngenta took even greater precautions by hiring “third party allies” to independently support and praise the company. Syngenta also took steps to look into the background of the judge in the case’s personal life as well as well as psychological evaluations of the scientists who have found evidence against the pesticide.
Working On It:
CEO: Ted Wright
1001 19th Street
Arlington, VA 22209
Wartime and conflict often create a supply and demand economic opportunity between government entities and private enterprise. Following 9/11, the Bush Administration initiated the “War on Terror” which demanded a greater amount of militant services that could not be met by U.S. federal employees and U.S. soldiers alone. Since 2003, the U.S. government has worked closely with Blackwater International, a for-profit company that specializes in contracting military services and weaponry. Contracting labor to the private sector was designed to be a cost effective means for the U.S. to fight the so-called “War on Terror”. Blackwater was able to confirm one billion dollars worth of contracts with the U.S., and has since deployed thousands of contractors to various countries, namely Iraq. In 2003, 1 out of 3 of the international corps deployed to Iraq by the U.S. were contractors of Blackwater, a staggering increase from the Gulf War in which the US only privately contracted 1 out of every 60 people. Today there are more private contractors than US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The military contracting business became a very attractive job opportunity for Americans at the start of Bush’s “War on Terror.” Salaries were a generous $750 per day, but as time went on pay decreased along with a less than qualified applicant pool. Qualifications for applicants were reduced to expedite the hiring process in order to fill the need for more people on the field. This also raised concerns about the lack of clear rules governing contractors, which the U.S. Congress had begun to investigate. Despite the risks that Blackwater posed to the countries it operated in, the United States has continued to work with the corporation.
Most notoriously, Blackwater was responsible for the killing of 17 innocent Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in 2007. Plaintiffs alleged that the company violated international law and, “created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life.” In 2009, the case was dismissed, to the shock of Iraqis who believed that the U.S. allowed contractors to operate above the law. The Iraqi government has denied Blackwater a license to operate in Iraq, yet the corporation has continued to work with the State Department to continue its programs there. Surrounding the events that took place that tarnished Blackwater’s reputation, the corporation has since changed its name to Xe Services, but is still commonly referred to as Blackwater. This year the case involving 2007’s incident has been reopened and is now pending.
Working On It:
Resource: Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army By: Jeremy Scahill
6. Barrick Gold
CEO: Jamie Sokalsky
Chairman: Peter Munk
Phone: +1 801 990 3900
Barrick Gold North America, Inc:
460 West 50 North, Suite 500
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Mining is an extremely dirty industry. Barrick Gold has a history of haphazardly operating on sites throughout Latin America and has made life difficult for residents in Pascua Lama, a mountainous region between Argentina and Chile. The area is rich in gold and is estimated to take 20 years to completely extract.
In 2007, Barrick Gold set on plans to excavate Pascua Lama with the support of the Chilean and Argentinian governments, which believed the project to be an opportunity for economic development. Some government leaders voiced that creating a mine in the region would improve people’s livelihoods with better wages and sustained employment and provided an alternative to the main agricultural business, which only provides seasonal work. Barrick Gold also ensured that their “modern mining methods are fail-safe and they have taken measures to safeguard the environment” reports the BBC. During this time, concerned community members expressed their worries about a clean water supply as the mining process involves harmful chemicals including cyanide. The communities living there are very dependent on the glacial water flow into the Huasco Valley that enables crops to be grown in an otherwise arid region and concerns were that Barrick Gold’s operations would threaten water safety and that the movement and dust from the drilling would destroy glaciers. Many of these individuals pleaded for assistance from the United Nations, but nothing was done to halt Barrick’s program in Pascua Lama.
2013, six years after Barrick began drilling, water quality has diminished significantly. Evidence reveals that discharge has been seeping out of the acid treatment plant into the Estecho River. The Chilean authorities have fined the company $16 million dollars for environmental damages. The continuation of the mine’s construction will be halted until Barrick provides a solution for the water contamination crisis. Chilean authorities have stated that Barrick has not taken adequate precautions that were formerly promised. Barrick has consequently undermined environmental and community rights in the search for profit-making natural resources.
Working On It:
CEO: Bruce Wrobel
277 Park Avenue, 40th floor
New York, NY 10172
Many multi national agribusinesses boast of the positive effects that business will generate in “marginal lands” in countries around the world. However, little concern is paid to the negative consequences agribusinesses have for the livelihoods of indigenous communities and the health of the environment. Herakles Farms is one such agribusiness that claims to create large-scale sustainable agricultural projects in Africa. However, Herakles Farms’ activity in Africa has proved to be more detrimental to the nation than sustainable. In Cameroon, Herakles Farms has taken steps to spearhead the production of palm oil. Doing so creates major deforestation and threatens the livelihoods of the community who rely on farming for their daily needs. Herakles Farms has also inaccurately reported on its Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). Herakles Farms says that only 14,000 people inhabit the area proposed for palm oil, however several non-governmental organizations report that the number of potentially affected people is upwards of 45,000. The company has also failed to mention that thousands of small-scale farmers would have their lands taken, without any mention of a compensation plan. Only broad statements have been made by Herakles Farms that express that displaced farmers will have opportunities for employment without any details regarding how this conclusion was reached or what villagers would be employed to do. There is also little mention involving the amount of chemicals being used as pesticides and fertilizers, which can potentially contaminate the water sources that can endanger the fish populations as well as potable water.
According foodfirst.org, various Cameroonian non-governmental organizations have reported in 2012 that Cameroon spends approximately 30 percent of its GDP on imported food. However, by investing more in locally produced agriculture, this cost could be dramatically reduced. Economies in Africa can improve substantially without the intervention of agribusiness that in fact work to cripple sovereign nations from self-determination and indigenous rights to land and production.
Working On It:
Resource: The Herakles Debacle (film)
CEO: Joe Weller
800 N. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203
Nestlé is well known for producing chocolate (not Fair Trade), but is in fact one of the world’s largest multinational food companies producing everything from frozen meals to infant formula. Nestle executives describe the company as the “world’s leading nutrition, health, and wellness company.” However, it remains one of the largest controversial businesses operating in the world. Nestlé has been criticized for pushing bottled water sales in developing nations, which is not only costly for communities, but deters governments from improving water sanitation efforts locally. Similarly Nestlé has been accused of marketing infant formula to new mothers in Turkey claiming that breast milk is insufficient for infant health. Since the advertising campaign, Nestlé infant formula sales increased 15% this year. These are just some of the many examples of Nestlé’s poor practices. Profit maximization comes at a higher priority than the “nutrition, health and wellness” of the people Nestlé markets to.
Nestlé has been on Global Exchange’s list in the past for its child forced labor practice in the cocoa fields of the Ivory Coast. This year Nestle has been included on the list to follow up on the issue.
The economic challenges of corporate globalization put children at risk as corporate profit will seek out the lowest wage for compensation and poverty and need sometimes force children into the workforce. Cocoa operations in the Ivory Coast under Nestlé have been under scrutiny for years as child labor is known to be a common practice. The company’s operations in Africa have been greatly tarnished by the press due to documentary footage of child laborers in the region. In response Nestlé took steps to meet these challenges, but these efforts are insufficient in ensuring child safety and decent wages for its laborers.
Nestlé had devised the Nestle Cocoa Plan to improve the lives of locals and cocoa farmers. The plan outlines that 40 schools will be built in Ivory Coast and that 1 million higher yielding cocoa trees will be provided to farmers. However, the greater number of schools and better producing trees does not equate to a decrease in child labor. In fact children would have already been attending school if not for the financial need to work in the cocoa fields. Additionally, children trafficked into harvesting cocoa will be unable to reap the benefits of proposed schools. Many parents are working for miniscule wages unfit for a family to live off of. Child labor could be dramatically curbed if adult cocoa field workers were paid a livable wage, and the Nestlé Cocoa Plan makes no such promises.
Working On It:
CEO: Robert Pittman
Message “Contact Us” page:
People have the right to expect a multiplicity of voices through the media. However, in the United States diversity throughout the telecommunications industry has been monopolized by a few corporations that seek to maximize profits while also controlling what information reaches the public. Prior to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, no single corporation could own more than 40 radio stations in one country. However, once the Act was passed, this limit was no longer enforced and corporations could legally own an unlimited amount of stations therefore controlling the content that they proliferate. Clear Channel is one such corporation that has taken its new purchasing freedom to overtake radio stations, television stations, billboards and other outdoor advertising, in addition to booking the majority of concert venues, amphitheaters, and clubs in the United States. For example, Clear Channel monopolizes media by advertising on Clear Channel owned billboards for Clear Channel booked shows at Clear Channel owned venues.
Another concern is Clear Channel’s use of voice tracking—a method of recording a single DJ to broadcast over a multitude of stations without regard to local news, politics, music, and culture. Not only has Clear Channel diminished the availability of locally produced broadcasting, but its control over mainstream media has created dangerous circumstances for local residents. In 2002, the town of Minot experienced a major spillage of anhydrous ammonia from a nearby freight train. The authorities attempted to warn residents through the radio to stay indoors to avoid the spill, but the 6 operating radio stations were all owned by Clear Channel, and no personnel at any of the sites was present at the time.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found this incident to be a warning, but simultaneously argued that locally owned stations do not have the capacity to produce quality newscasts, an accusation that was inconsistent with a Columbia University study that found that locally owned radio stations generally produce good local news broadcasts. Later it was revealed that Clear Channel was providing all expenses paid trips to FCC affiliates creating suspicions of bias on the part of the FCC to give preferential privileges to Clear Channel.
Last year, Clear Channel has promoted voter suppression billboards and other advertisements that have been concentrated in communities of color to deter them from showing up to the polls. In October 2012 in Pennsylvania, Clear Channel billboards throughout the state advertised in Spanish that if anyone wishes to vote, he or she must present photo identification. However a court ruling in that state was passed saying that voters do not have to present their ID at the polls. Additionally in the same year, similar threatening billboards were placed in Black and Latino neighborhoods throughout Wisconsin and Ohio that read, “Voter Fraud is a Felony, 3 ½ years & $10,000 Fine.” These billboards were used to intimidate minority voters who may have been uncertain about their rights. It was later revealed that the anonymous donors who funded the billboards were Republican party supporters, Stephen and Nancy Einhorn. The billboards were soon after removed after thousands of protesters petitioned Clear Channel to do so.
This year, Clear Channel’s reputation of media censorship and control has manifested again. The South Wind Women’s Center located in Wichita, Kansas has developed two ads to air on Clear Channel owned radio stations. The Center provides services for reproductive healthcare including abortion care, and Clear Channel has refused to air the ads as they are “divisive” and violate “decency standards.” Meanwhile Clear Channel runs advertisements for the local “adult boutique” as well as “male enhancement” products without any issue with “decency”.
Working On It:
- Trust Women
- Women, Action and the Media
- Public Ad Campaign
- Media Matters for America
- Color of Change
10. SNC Lavalin
CEO: Robert G. Card
Chairman: Ian A. Bourne
455 Rene-Levesque Blvd. West
Montreal, Quebec Canada
SNC Lavalin, one of the largest engineering companies based in Montreal, Canada has accrued a greatly unfavorable reputation. It was recently revealed that SNC Lavalin was responsible for giving vast amounts of financial support to the Quebec Liberal Party and the Parti Quebocois, violating the province’s 30-year-old law that prohibits such activity. Over 1 million dollars was given to the parties by SNC between 1998 and 2010. The Vice President of SNC told executives that they would receive bonuses greater than their donations if they contributed to the either of the parties.
SNC received 550 contracts worth $247.5 million dollars from the Quebec Transport Department, but denied that the political contributions had anything to do with obtaining the contracts.
In addition, in April of this year, the World Bank put a 10-year ban on SNC Lavalin for allegations of bribery schemes in Bangladesh. SNC allegedly offered large bribes to at least six Bangladeshi officials in order to obtain contracts for a large bridge construction project. These bribery accusations caused the World Bank to suspend a US $1.2 billion dollar loan to SNC that would bar the company from bidding on other contracts in the country.
The latest controversy involving SNC Lavalin is the company’s plans to build a $163 million dollar hospital complex in Trinidad and Tobago and is heavily backed by the Canadian government. In June SNC Lavalin was awarded a contract to design and build the hospital in the town of Penal per recommendation by the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC). The CCC is a contracting and procurement agency that expedites the development of various industries outside the World Trade Organization’s agreements. It was primarily used after World War II to help rebuild Europe, but today largely operates in developing markets.
Afra Raymond, a construction agency spokesperson, urged the Trinidad and Tobago government not to give contracts to companies that have been banned by the World Bank as public money can easily get mishandled. However the CCC stands behind its decision in proposing that SNC Lavalin go forward on the project saying, “it carries out a strong due diligence review of the firms it works with prior to the signature of the contract” and involves an assessment of a firm’s “financial, managerial, technical, and Corporate Social Responsibility capabilities” reports the Huffington Post. The CCC also does not publicly disclose the results of due diligence processing, which implies that taxpayers must trust that the company will act in good faith.
The governments of Canada and Trinidad & Tobago are not maintaining proper standards in public projects and are essentially propping up a company who has had a filthy track record of financial corruption.
Working On It:
(Dis)Honorable mention POSCO
CEO: Chung-Joon Yang
622 Sampyeong-Dong, Bundang-gu,
Seongnam-si, Kyeonggi-do, 463-400, Korea
In the quest for natural resources, it seems as though big business will stop at nothing to acquire raw materials for profiteering—even if it means violently exploiting indigenous peoples and jeopardizing their livelihoods. This is the case in POSCO’s activity in the Jagatsinghpur District of India. POSCO, a steel company based in South Korea, has aggressively pressured villagers in Orissa, India to vacate their farmland so the company can go forward with establishing a steel plant and a private seaport there.
The repercussions that POSCO’s project will create are enormous for Orissa. For one, POSCO will diminish the livelihoods of thousands of villagers who have cultivated the land for generations. POSCO’s project would potentially displace 22,000 people by seizing 4,000 acres of villager land. It would consequently affect 25,000 more people in surrounding villages that work and do business in the area.
The vast majority of villagers make their living cultivating and selling rice, coconuts, cashews, and the famous betel leaves that the region is known for. However POSCO has worked closely with the Indian government to coerce the villagers into surrendering their land to the business. The government systematically destroys betel leaf crops, fires rubber bullets at village protesters, and prevents the villagers from accessing medical care and education, among other injustices.
Secondly, POSCO plans to create a private port nearby the prospective steel plant although a port already exists there. POSCO’s private port would disenfranchise villagers, as the company is unlikely to hire anyone without technical education. The private port would also cut fishermen off from valuable coastline and cripple their industry.
Villagers have remained steadfast in non-violently resisting the harassment that POSCO affiliates and the government poses to them. Villagers have organized peaceful marches and sit-ins among other actions, but continue to struggle, as their ability to organize and make a living from farming is made more and more difficult by oppressive and coercive government policies.
The villagers have stood their ground since 2005, but it is essential that the international community be made aware of the grave injustice that is imposed on the villagers of Orissa so that greater pressure can be made against POSCO. The BBC reported on July 16, 2013 that POSCO has scrapped another steel mining plant in Karnataka due to inability to secure lands and the strong opposition from locals. However, the project is expected to proceed in Orissa.
Working on it:
For more info: “Dividends of Resistance”