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FACTDROP: The 10 Most Socially Irresponsible Big Brands


The 10 Most Socially Irresponsible Big Brands

Πηγή: bschool
March 28 2011

Big business often gets a bad rap when it comes to looking out for the little guy and environmental causes. While many large corporations aren't as sinister as some would like to believe, there are others committing blatant crimes, causing harm to thousands and face few, if any, repercussions for their actions. For those interested in a career in business, these companies are a model of how not to run a transparent and socially responsible organization — though they certainly turn a profit– and serve as a lesson for future CEOs on how to create a future of more conscious corporate entities. Here are some of the biggest offenders in the corporate world.

Pfizer: Pfizer has a bad record on numerous fronts. They've been fined multiple times for environmental violations, most notably for pumping hazardous chemicals into the air in violation of the Clean Air Act and for sales of asbestos-contaminated insulation by one of their subsidiaries. Even worse, Pfizer has committed some horrible human rights violations, testing new drugs on poor, sick Nigerian children (many of whom died or suffered irreparable brain damage) without their or their parents' knowledge and consent and engaging price gouging on AIDS drugs — even when governments fought tool and nail to get generic licenses to treat the poor in developing nations, where these treatments are needed most! While Pfizer may not be the most socially responsible company, they've at least made some efforts to repay the damages they've done. In 2009, Pfizer gave more than $60 million to charity, amounting to an astounding 24.2% of its total net profits for the year.

Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart has become much more than a brand. In many circles, mention the name of this global giant and you'll get a laundry list of its offenses around the world, especially when it comes to treatment of its workers. Employees are often underpaid, overworked and have little recourse, as the bigwigs at the company spend millions each year making ensuring that any attempts to unionize are quickly terminated from employment with the company. The company has also been known to take out life insurance policies on their workers, profiting from their death or misfortune, while their families have little way to pay medical bills or cover funeral costs. And that's not where the bad press ends. The company also has a pretty bad reputation on the environmental front as well, paying fines for infractions all over the United States. While the company is making efforts to improve its environmental record, the low prices of its goods come with a pretty high cost for both humans and the planet.

BP: Images of the devastation caused by the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are hard to forget, notably the miles and miles of ocean coated in a greasy, globular mess, killing off countless numbers of fish, birds and other wildlife that call the area home. While they bill themselves as a business leading the way in green initiatives, BP's careless actions cost lives, damage the environment, and drain thousands upon thousands of jobs, especially in the hardest hit areas like the coast of Louisiana, where residents where already reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. A PR campaign launched to help the company promised that they would take full responsibility for the cleanup and associated costs, yet news reports have shown that they haven't really fulfilled that promise, with dire consequences for Gulf wildlife and the people who call it home. Failed efforts to stem the spill, misinformation given to federal officials and ill-advised attempts at containing the leaked oil (with dispersants the EPA warned against) make this company one of the most socially irresponsible today.

ExxonMobil: Of course, BP isn't alone as one of the most socially irresponsible energy companies out there. ExxonMobil also had a pretty epically bad oil spill of its own, tainting miles of Alaskan coastline in a disaster that is still remembered to this day. Yet ExxonMobil's social irresponsibility doesn't end there when it comes to environmental destruction. The company ranks sixth on the list of most toxic air polluters in the US, has been accused time and time again of manipulating and influencing climate change studies, and in the past has actively supported global warming denial organizations — all while a PR program assures consumers that ExxonMobil is investing millions in clean energy. ExxonMobil outdoes BP in social irresponsibility, however, in their blatant disregard for basic human rights. In 2001, the company became the target of a lawsuit alleging that the army they hired to protect their oil fields in Indonesia has committed torture, rape and killings, and that the company was well aware of these violations. They even provided equipment to help commit and cover up these crimes! The case has yet to be settled, and if found guilty the company could be facing big fines and international censure.

Dow Chemical: It's hard to put a happy face on a company responsible for the research and development of Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant, and napalm, a thickening agent often mixed with gasoline, used by the U.S. military during Vietnam. These two chemicals alone cost hundreds of thousands of lives, a great deal of them civilian, and caused birth defects in the generations that followed. While they no longer produce either of these chemicals, they do output a number of others that have taken a big toll on the environment, releasing dioxins and chlorinated furans into local waterways– both of which are known to cause cancer and other serious health conditions. Decades of battle with the EPA over these chemicals has resulted in little change, with Dow refusing to clean them up or even warn citizens of the potential dangers they may pose. According to the EPA, Dow has some responsibility for 96 of the United States' Superfund toxic waste sites, placing it in tenth place by number. And their harmful toxic waste isn't just doing damage at home. Union Carbide, purchased by Dow in 2001, was responsible for a toxic leak of methyl iso-cyanide in Bhopal, India that killed over 20,000 people. The company has not helped to clean up nor taken responsibility for any aspect of this leak, and civil and criminal charges against Dow are still underway.

Chevron: Google this company and you're likely to find many times more articles about how evil it is than about its virtues. Committing violations in human rights and environmental issues, this corporate giant wreaks havoc around the world. Perhaps one of its most unforgivable and well-known offences took place in between 1964 and 1992. The company left over 600 unlined oil pits in the Amazon rainforest and dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic oil production water into the local rivers. The effect has been devastating, with locals suffering serious health effects ranging from cancer to skin lesions to birth defects. Unfortunately, the toxic effects of their business are felt elsewhere too, with refineries in Richmond, California causing serious health problems to residents there as well. Chevron is a hard corporation to stand up to, as protestors in Nigeria discovered. The company hired military personnel to open fire on a peaceful protest to the construction of oil fields in the area, and it was forced to pay a large settlement for their support of a regime that committed numerous human rights violations in Burma including torture, rape and forced labor.

Coca-Cola: It's likely that the products produced by this multi-national, multi-billion dollar company have crossed your lips at one point or another, yet there is a dark history behind the company that many aren't aware exists. Between 1989 and 2002, eight union leaders from bottling plants in Colombia were killed after they raised concerns about labor practices, and many members of the union and workforce there have been kidnapped and tortured to prevent them from supporting it. And that bottled water you drink? You might think twice before taking a sip when you learn where it comes from. Coca-Cola's plant in Kerala, India, gets that water from deep wells in the area, which is great for them – but not so great for residents who are left with little to drink or use for agriculture. While Coca-Cola's worst infractions occurred overseas, they aren't saints at home either, with over 2,000 African-American employees suing and winning a case against the company for race discrimination.

Monsanto: There has been an international outcry against genetically engineered produce, justified or not, and agricultural giant Monsanto holds the patent on the bulk of these products. Yet farmers often have little choice whether or not to use the seeds, as the herbicides they spray on their crops (also sold by Monsanto and highly toxic to the environment and humans – not just weeds) accumulate in the soil, making any other plant unable to grow or reproduce there. Only Monsanto's seeds can resist it, and are sold at inflated prices to the farmers. And get your hands on these seeds without going through them? Well, be prepared to be put out of business and perhaps your home, a reality that has hit farmers hard around the world, with some communities in India reporting over 10,000 suicides in response to the desperation caused by the debt and indentured servitude created by this business practice. Monsanto is also responsible for 50 of the world's worst environmental disaster sites, one of which they proceeded to cover up for decades, costing numerous lives and incalculable damage.

Nestle: The products Nestle sells may be sweet, but many of their business practices aren't — and you may find that you don't care to indulge in what they sell when you know how it got onto your grocery store shelves. Much of the cocoa used in Nestle's products comes from the Ivory Coast, a country known for using illegal and forced child labor in the production of this commodity. Nestle is and has been well aware of this fact, and agreed to stop doing business with farms that use this type of labor by 2005. Yet the company has still yet to make good on this promise. Nestle also comes under fire for their aggressive marketing campaigns for their baby formula in developing and poor nations. Why is this a big deal? Because the company markets its formula under false pretenses (making mothers believe it is more healthy than their own [free] breast milk) and millions of liters of the substance were found to be contaminated with harmful chemicals. And let's not forget their labor violations, in nations like Columbia. When workers protest absurdly low wages and unsafe working conditions, they're simply fired and replaced with new workers, often at an even lower wage than before.

Halliburton: If there ever was a company out there with a truly sinister reputation, it's got to be this federal contracting giant. Questionable bookkeeping and dishonest billing practices have cost American taxpayers billions of dollars for military contracts, a fact which came to light in 2003 and again in 2005 when the company was busted for overcharging and double billing. Halliburton's former CEO, Dick Cheney, also brought the company into question when he continued to receive income from them despite it being a conflict of interest when they provided government work. Halliburton raked in numerous contracts during the Bush era, most of which were later found to be orchestrated by Cheney himself, though he continues to deny his involvement. Of course, their infractions aren't limited to financial ones. They also bring in thousands of overseas laborers to perform the tasks set out in their contracts. These laborers have few, if any, rights in the countries where they work, sleep in crowded trailers, work 70 or more hours a week and are not given adequate medical care. Other infractions include doing business with countries known to engage in human rights violations, robbing workers' pension funds, employees exposed to asbestos and the list goes on and on.

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