January 28, 2001 – Today the Secretary General of the United Nations will report on the Global Compact – a flagship initiative to encourage large corporations to champion the environmental and social causes of the UN. However, campaigners revealed at the same time the real record of some of the companies who have adopted this ideological bluewash*. In fact, since the launch of the Compact at the World Economic Forum one year ago, participating companies have breached the Compact’s principles with impunity, calling into question the validity and effectiveness of the entire exercise.

For example:
Shell: Despite several high profile exposes of the company’s involvement with environmental damage and human rights abuses, Shell continues to court controversy. It was, for example, recently revealed that the company plans to drill for oil and gas in the Kathir National Park in Pakistan and in the Sundarbans World Heritage Site (UNESCO) in Bangladesh. In both cases, the exploitation of fossil fuels would accelerate climate change, causing serious disruption to global weather patterns. Shell, through its active participation in corporate lobby groups such as the American Petroleum Institute, the Business Roundtable, and the International Chamber of Commerce, has also lobbied hard to undermine progress in the international climate negotiations. Shell had more than 40 of its own lobbyists in The Hague last November during the COP-6 negotiations. Though the company claims to be shifting investments over to renewable energy sources, it currently only commits less than 1% of its total annual expenditures to such climate friendly solutions, while continuing to increase investments in fossil fuel extraction and exploitation.

Rio Tinto: Jabiluka uranium mine in the Northern Territory of Australia, was recently acquired by Rio Tinto, which to date has failed to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples of the area. Rio Tinto also plans to mine beneath the last Eastern coastal forests of Madagascar. If the project goes ahead, it will lead to the global extinction of several species of plants and animals, and cause serious disruption to local communities. Rio Tinto is also involved in the Freeport McMoran gold and copper mine in Irian Jaya, where the company has been accused of human rights abuses. The company faces grassroots opposition in many other parts of the world, from the Czech Republic to the Philippines.

UBS: The largest of the Swiss banks, UBS was recently forced to open up its accounts to independent inspection, which revealed that the bank had been withholding information about “dormant” accounts belonging to Jewish customers placed there during the second World War. It was also revealed that the bank had willingly serviced the Nazi regimeís ruthless appropriation of the assets and valuables of Jewish families, profiting immensely at these familiesí expense. All this information came as a result of intense public pressure and scrutiny for decades by advocate groups rather than from the secretive bank itself, indicating a real lack of commitment to the principles espoused by the Compact. To date, the bank has not demonstrated any significant shift in its business practice or adopted new policies, which would guarantee that such violations would not be committed again.

Business lobby groups have also seized on the brand value of the Global Compact. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the petroleum lobby IPIECA, both well represented at the WEF, have made extensive use of the Compact logo, for example in materials lobbying on behalf of their membersí business interests.

Without independent monitoring and assessment mechanisms in place, nor any legal enforceability and binding requirements included in the Global Compact, these participating companies and associations continue to breach the principles of the Compact with impunity, while benefiting from its PR value for their corporate image. The prominence of the Compact at the World Economic Forum, jars with the principles it claims to promote such as freedom of association in light of the atrocious misconduct of the security forces in Davos and their treatment of people seeking to exercise their fundamental human right to protest. Through such shameful pandering to the corporate sector, the Global Compact threatens the UNís mission and integrity.

Other companies participating in the Global Compact include: ABB Ltd., Aventis, Bayer, BP Amoco, BASF, British Telecom, Credit Suisse Group, Dupont, DaimlerChrysler, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Telekom, Group Suez Lyonnaise, Ericsson, Nike, Norsk Hydro ASA, Novartis, Statoil, Unilever, and the Volvo Car Corporation. The Compact was launched last year in Davos at the World Economic Forum.

*Bluewash: The flagrant misuse of the social and human rights legitimacy of the United Nations by corporations and parties who do not in fact adhere to the core principles of the various UN declarations.

For more information contact:
Duncan McLaren +44-7941-920469
Tony Juniper +44-7712-843207
Miriam Behrens +41-7921-60206 (auf Deutsche, FranÁais, Italiano)
Adam Maíanit +31-6-121-50340