We are selling out our planet´s resources to the highest bidder, it is high time we put some strict conditions on it.
Corporations' shameful practices are being exposed, but it's not
just their shoddy accounting practices. Corporate crimes extend to
murders, destroying habitats, threatening indigenous cultures,
causing disease, contaminating the planet's food supply and even
destroying the very air we breathe.
You think this is an exaggeration? Well consider this.
In Bhopal, India more than 8,000 people died in the first three
days after 40 tonnes of lethal gas spilled out from Union Carbide's
pesticide factory. People woke in their homes to fits of coughing,
their lungs filling with fluid. 520,000 people were exposed to
poisonous gases. 150,000 victims are chronically ill, and even now
one person dies every two days.
And corporations are not only taking advantage of people in the
developing world. In the UK, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. dumped
approximately 182 kilograms of plutonium into the Irish sea over
the last half century. Lobsters from the Irish sea and the
Norwegian coast have tested positive for high levels of radioactive
contamination. Would you let your children play in these waters?
What about eating the fish?
It is no longer just the conspiracy theorists who believe our
world is increasingly ruled and ruined by large multinational
At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro ten years ago…
world leaders tried to avert the impending clash between
globalisation and environmental ethics. Governments emerged with a
plan outlining how to solve the planet's problems of environment
and development. They agreed to develop national and international
laws on liability and compensation for victims of pollution and
other environmental damage. But what has happened in the ten years
Environmentalists have played the role they were assigned,
arguing with governments over articles and clauses in treaties
emerging from the Earth Summit which, in the end, will make little
difference to the health of the planet. Meanwhile corporations have
stolen the power, played up their environmental values to the
public while turning up the effluent pipe in the backyard.
The World Trade Organisation has supplanted environmental
treaties and regulations. Corporations have become accountable only
under the rules of a free market, free trade and a free for all on
human rights and the environment.
The spirit of the Rio summit has not only been lost, it is
working in shackles in a polluted multinational factory.
The state of our environment has not improved, in fact it has
deteriorated. The gap between the world's rich and poor has
widened. Instead of providing developing countries with the tools
for sustainable development, corporations have pushed their dirty
technologies and polluting industries on to some of the world's
Governments in Rio did not get corporations under control…
instead they opted for a voluntary approach to sustainable
development. We need only look at the recent corporate accounting
scandals to know that voluntary measures don't work when money is
involved - and polluting the planet has been a very profitable
A recent UN report revealed that Exxon, with $63 billion, is
worth more than Peru or New Zealand. General Electric more than
Kuwait. Shell is worth more than Morocco or Cuba.
In the past ten years, corporations have not only resisted
environmental challenges, they have lobbied to water down
international treaties and even succeeded in getting countries to
pull out of environmental agreements altogether. They have
maintained their unsustainable practices in all sectors and it is
clear that we need more than just voluntary measures.
And now we sit on the verge of the Earth Summit on Sustainable
Development in Johannesburg, knowing that the world's governments
will mumble vague commitments to saving the planet which they do
not intend to implement. And this really is our
…last chance to save the planet.
A recent report by WWF states that if we continue at current
levels of consumption we will use up all of the Earth's resources
within 50 years, and we will need two more planets to meet our
resource needs. We either take urgent action to save the planet, or
we get off.
The UN Environmental Programme agrees that "the state of the
planet is getting worse." They say "there is a growing gap between
the efforts of business and industry to reduce their impact on the
environment and the worsening state of the planet."
At the root of our environmental problems are the unsustainable
practices of the corporations that shape our economies. But what is
the good of a healthy economy if we can't drink the water, eat the
foods in the fields or breathe the air?
Corporations need to be held accountable for their actions that
are destroying the planet, destroying people's lives around the
There is only one answer. We must stand up to the corporations.
Our governments must agree on international, legally binding rules
for corporate responsibility, accountability and liability: a set
of rules that business must follow, and governments must
The list of rules is long, but so are the crimes.
The world needs corporations to be held accountable to the
following laws - and held accountable to these laws no matter where
they operate in the world:
- Accept liability for environmental damage and compensate
victims of pollution;
- Accept liability for the damage no matter when it happens, what
the cause or who in the corporation is responsible;
- Accept responsibility for damage and injury beyond national
borders including accidents in the oceans and atmosphere;
- Ensure that they do not infringe upon basic human rights;
- Disclose all information regarding releases into the
environment to the public;
- Protect human and social rights including the highest standards
for rights to health care and a clean environment;
- Avoid influence over governments, combat bribery and practice
- Allow states to maintain their sovereignty over their own food
- Implement a precautionary principle and take preventative
action before environmental damages or health effects are incurred;
- Promote and practice clean and sustainable development
In short, corporate criminals must own up, clean up, and pay
Over the next week we will present some of the world’s worst corporate criminals and we could use your help tracking them down and enforcing environmental protection. Tomorrow, find out why Michael D. Parker is wanted for the deaths of over 20,000 people and what he could do to atone for his crimes.