Amsterdam/London, August 16, 2002 – Some corporations continue to abuse the rights of people, destroy the livelihoods of communities, and pollute water and forest resources for future generations, according to a new report by Friends of the Earth International published today. The report graphically illustrates the need for governments to agree to introduce tighter rules for multinationals at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg.

Launched as world leaders prepare for the Earth Summit in Johannesburg later this month [1], Clashes with Corporate Giants [2] reveals how even some of the top international companies who claim to be developing sustainable policies, are still causing major damage to the planet.

Companies featured in the report include:

  • Mining giant Rio Tinto is prospecting for gold in the Poboya protected forest, in Indonesia, despite opposition from local indigenous peoples [3]. The mining industry poses one of the greatest threats to Indonesia’s threatened forests with mining concessions overlapping with many protected areas. Rio Tinto is aiming to avoid international regulation of the mining industry at the forthcoming Earth Summit. It is trying to persuade governments to establish voluntary partnerships with the industry rather than legally enforceable rules. Rio Tinto Chairman Sir Robert Wilson is a member of the UK delegation.
  • South African-based chemical company Sasol claims to “put as much into the community as we do into our petrol.” Indeed they do, including high levels of benzene, vinyl chloride and methylene chloride. Sasol has been influential in pushing for voluntary environmental agreements, rather than legally enforceable standards that the local community could use to hold them liable [4].

Friends of the Earth International is calling for world leaders meeting at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg to introduce global rules for business, to protect people and the environment. The call has so far met with little enthusiasm from Western governments. But it has received the backing of many developing countries as well as thousands of people, community leaders and celebrities from around the world who have sent messages of support [5].

Tony Juniper, Vice Chair of Friends of the Earth International said today: “The evidence in this report highlights the real damage companies are doing to people and to our environment. Despite big companies’ green public relations efforts, it illustrates how, for many companies, sustainable development means business as usual. Without global rules to check this behaviour, the environment is not going to figure on the corporate bottom line – and it would be naïve to expect otherwise. This issue is about far more than protecting profits for shareholders – it is about the rights of people around the world to protect their health and their livelihoods, now and for future generations to come.”

In Johannesburg, Friends of the Earth International today also unveiled preparations for its Art Action, Hear Our Voice, an installation of sculpture and sound. Produced by deprived communities in Johannesburg, thousands of small biodegradable figures, representing the diverse voices of people struggling to defend their lives, their communities and their environment, will confront a Corporate Giant, symbolising the unbridled power of the big corporations. Hear Our Voice will be displayed on September 1st [6].

Corporates Campaigners:
Contact Matt Phillips (Friends of the Earth EWNI: England, Wales, N.Ireland) at +44-20- 7566 1660 or +44- 7817 314706 or Ed Matthew (FOE EWNI ) for Rio Tinto at +44-20-7566 1720 or at pager 07654 664 965.

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI):
Contact Daniel Mittler (FoEI Earth Summit campaign coordinator) for Earth Summit enquiries at +49-173-9234747 and contact Ann Doherty for enquiries on the new report at +31-20-6221369

[1] The UN World Summit on Sustainable Development takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa from 26th August to 4th September 2002.
[2] Clashes with Corporate Giants is published by Friends of the Earth International at The pdf-version of the report can be found here.

Advance PDF copies of the report are available from Friends of the Earth’s press office on +44-20-75661649 or from contacts above.
[3] More information from
[4] Hear a full interview with Bobby Peek, FOE South Africa, see also
[5] Individuals around the world are sending sounds and messages and these will be broadcast by Friends of the Earth at the Earth Summit.
[6] For more information contact Donald Pols (FoEI) in Johannesburg. Mobile: +27 72-2966 740