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SWITZERLAND: "Corporate villains" named and shamed

Swiss Info
January 25th, 2006

The Walt Disney Company, the Chevron Corporation and Citigroup have been awarded booby prizes by Swiss non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
 
The awards, which run parallel to the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos, single out companies for "outstanding social and ecological irresponsibility".
 
Other companies nominated this year included Coca-Cola, the food multinational Nestlé, pharmaceutical company Novartis, as well as chemical firms Syngenta, Ciba Specialty and Bayer.

The Public Eye Awards, which accuse the WEF of concentrating on free trade and competition rather than humanitarian and environmental crises, were announced on the opening day of the WEF meeting on Wednesday.

The award's organisers, the Berne Declaration and Pro Natura - Friends of the Earth, say they "want to hit the companies where they are most vulnerable – their image".

The two Swiss organisers said NGOs from around the world had nominated some 20 companies in three categories: social rights, environment and taxes.
 
Winners and sinners
 
The award in the social rights category went to the Walt Disney Company, which had been accused of serious human rights abuses in southern China.

The Hong Kong NGO, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, claimed workers in factories producing Disney children's books and toys were being paid under half a dollar (SFr0.63) an hour.

The NGO's spokesman added that workers were also denied any form of rights such as health insurance, pension or maternity leave. He said the award was an important step as it increased pressure on Disney in Europe.

Next to Disney on the podium was petrochemical giant Chevron, one of the world's largest global energy companies, which cleaned up against their will in the environment category.

According to Californian environmental organisation Amazon Watch, Chevron – under its previous name Texaco – has been polluting streams, rivers and wetlands in Ecuadorian rainforests for 30 years.

The award in the final category went to US financial services giant Citigroup for its negative contributions to tax evasion and money laundering.

Between 1973 and 1980, Citigroup siphoned $58 million from high-tax countries to tax-free zones including Panama, Monaco and the Canary Islands, according to the Tax Justice Network.

For the first time a "Positive Award" was handed out in Davos.

However, it did not go a company but to a Mexican trade union and two German NGOs for successfully fighting against the illegal closure of a factory in Mexico owned by tyre manufacturers Continental.

Related Site
Berne Declaration – The Public Eye Awards  




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