An enormous amount of information, frequently updated, is provided by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.
Responsible Shopper allows you to compare many individual companies, as well as industries, on the bases of social insight and environmental insight. Responsible Shopper also notes things companies have been criticised and praised for, such as environmental practices, sweatshop labor, community and labor relations, diversity in the workforce, and charitable contributions. Responsible Shopper is another site maintained by Co-op America.
The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment has a wealth of information, including a screening and advocacy chart showing which screens are used by various socially responsible mutual funds, as well as a financial performance chart of all the funds and Socially Responsible Investing Basics for Individuals.
The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) works to stop child labor, address sexual harassment and other issues of concern to women in the workplace, eliminate sweatshops and sweatshop conditions in fields, and protect unions and organizing efforts of workers.Top
Mars animal experiments
You wouldn't think you'd have to worry about supporting cruel animal experiments experiments by buying a candy bar, but a PETA report says Mars candy company, unlike rival Hershey, does unnecessary and cruel animal experiments. Hershey, however, is known for using child slave labor in its supply chain. To buy socially responsible chocolate, see Green America's Chocolate Scorecard.
Lockheed racial discrimination case
2008 January 3 Washington Post report says Lockheed has agreed to settle a suit brought by an employee alleging racial discrimination for $2.5 million, the "largest-ever settlement for an individual racial discrimination case ". The employee, black electrician Charles Daniels, said he was subjected to racial slurs and physical threats, including death, from white coworkers, and his complaints were brushed off by company officials. A Lockheed spokesman said the company responded appropriately based on the facts presented at the time, and chose to settle to "to enable all parties to move on".
Texas electric utility TXU Corporation
TXU is set to be acquired for almost $45 billion by private investors who have agreed with environmental groups to build only three plants fired by coal, rather than the eleven TXU had said it needed, according to a 2007 February 27 Christian Science Monitor article. The article states this major deal indicates investors are starting to consider the financial cost of carbon emissions as a major factor in their decisions. The cost includes potential carbon taxes that may be enacted by Congress or the states. Calculations of companies' carbon footprints could influence future mergers. In addition, there has been an increase in shareholder resolutions supported by large shareholders that ask for corporate accountability for carbon emissions.
Wal-Mart, as the world's largest retailer, has enormous impacts on its suppliers, its competitors, its employees, its customers, the environment, and the communities in which it is located. The effects of Wal-Mart's quest to dominate the market through low prices are so huge, complex, and inadequately understood that we can only begin to scratch the surface here. What are the net benefits achieved by economies of scale and what harm is caused by the methods used to maintain low prices and market dominance? What is the social responsibility of such a powerful corporation? We begin with a few references illustrating key points to consider. Stay tuned for more to be added.
2013 January 3: Democracy Now War and Peace Report says "Exposť Reveals Walmart Blocked Improvements Despite Vows to Improve Safety After Deadly Factory Fire"
The fire took place at a Bangladesh factory that was part of Walmart's supply chain. (See 2012 Nov. 6 report). "Survivors said an exit door at the factory was locked, fire extinguishers didn't work, and that when the fire alarm went off, their bosses ordered them to stay at their sewing machines." At least 111 workers died. Some escaped by breaking windows. An inspection report found appalling neglect of basic safety measures. Walmart claims it has addressed problems in its supply chain, but critics say it has resisted spending money to improve safety even though covering the funds needed could be raised by very small increases in product prices.
Making Change at Walmart says it "is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, community organizations, women?s advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country."
A 2006 March 18 MarketWatch Special Report on a new book by Gabriel Madway calls the book "an essential primer", "absorbing and relatively evenhanded". The book points out a number of ambiguities, such as disapproval of Wal-Mart by many consumers vs. their love of bargains, creation of new jobs vs. elimination of existing jobs, and need of suppliers to sell to Wal-Mart vs. pressures by Wal-Mart on suppliers that restrict their profits and cause them to outsource jobs and manufacturing overseas, often to sweatshops.
Green America's Responsible Shopper has a wealth of information on Walmart criticisms, campaigns, and alerts, etc.
Bechtel: Bolivian Water War
The following is a very brief summary of detailed reports available online from PBS and Cochabamba-based The Democracy Center.
When the Bolivian government stopped poverty-stricken Bolivia's illicit trade in the coca leaf, a new economic crisis followed. Bolivia badly needed loans from the World Bank, but the Bank required Bolivia to sell "all remaining public assets" as a condition of the loans (see PBS Timeline). The assets included the city of Cochabamba's municipally-run water agency. In a 1999 bidding process behind closed doors, there was only one bidder for control of Cochabamba's water system, a newly formed consortium called Aguas del Tunari. The Democracy Center, based in Cochabamba, later revealed that Bechtel was the major shareholder in the consortium. According to Jim Schultz of The Democracy Center, Bechtel also won control of many rural water systems that had been "paid for and built by local people without government help".
Bechtel drastically raised water rates soon after taking over the water system. This sparked a popular uprising, followed by a brutal crackdown by the Bolivian government, riots in the streets, and deaths. According to a PBS series, "...not a single U.S. newspaper had a reporter on the scene. But news of the uprising was reaching a worldwide audience through the Internet", such as on-the-scene reports by Jim Schultz of The Democracy Center.
In 2000 April the Bolivian government conceded control of Cochabamba's water system to a grassroots organization and promised to repeal legislation privatizing water. In 2001 November the Bechtel-headed consortium applied to the World Bank for arbitration and asked that the Bolivian government pay them $25 million in damages for breach of contract. (This figure was apparently later raised to $50 million.) Jim Schultz of The Democracy Center writes that the arbitration body is "a secret trade court", "the prototype for the proposed Free Trade Act of the Americas (FTAA)", that could be used to require repeal of environmental and labor laws in many parts of the world in the name of trade.
A massive email campaign, protests in countries where Bechtel had offices, and a citizens' petition to the World Bank followed. In 2006 January Bechtel bowed to the pressure and settled the case for pennies.
The story of the water revolt, Bechtel, and the World Bank has wide implications for effects on poor countries of privatization, globalization, and international aid and loans. The refrain "I owe my soul to the company sto'" comes to mind. It is also a David vs. Goliath story of a grassroots organization taking on a megacorporation with powerful political connections plus an organization controlled by the world's richest and most powerful countries, and winning. It is also a story of the power of the Internet to inform the public when other media are silent.
Coca-Cola: Water in India
2006 February 2 Environment News Service article says police in Gangaikondan, southern Tamil Nadu, India are investigating the death of V. Kamsan, the village council chair, who convened a meeting of the council on 2005 August 23 which passed a resolution saying that the government should withdraw permission to Coca-Cola for a proposed plant. The resolution said the plant, which would draw water from the Thamirabarani River, would worsen a critical shortage of water in the area and cause environmental damage. Less than 12 hours later, Kamsan contradicted the resolution in a prepared statement for the press. Asked about the statement, he said he issued it under "immense pressure". Kamsan's widow, petitioned for the police investigation, saying that on the same evening Coca-Cola officials kidnapped her husband, detained him for days, forced him to drink alchohol in spite of the fact he had jaundice, forced him to drop the resolution, and returned him in serious physical condition. He died on 2005 August 30. The village council recently passed another resolution in opposition to Coca-Cola and calling for a thorough investigation into the suspicious death of Mr. Kamsan. More on Coca-Cola below.
Elektrozinc: Air Pollution
Elektrozinc is located in Vladikavkaz, capital and industrial center of North Ossetia. According to a 2006 January 23 Environment News Service article, residents, environmentalists, and state agencies say the plant contributed to severe air pollution and a high number of birth defects and miscarriages in the nineties. In 2003 the plant was closed by court order and then taken over by Russian company UMMC-Holding. Since then much improvement has been made, but some say there are still major problems.
Coca-Cola: Labor Rights in Columbia
2006 January 3 Environment News Service report says students at the University of Michigan concerned about Coca-Cola's labour practices in Columbia and environment practices in India brought about suspension of University purchases of Coca-Cola products. Third party vendors on the campus still carry the products, as required by their agreements with the company. Students at other universities have also brought pressure to end purchases of Coca-Cola products. There have been many complaints in India about severe water shortages caused by Coca-Cola. In Columbia there have been allegations of murder, kidnapping, and torture of labor leaders by the company. Coca-Cola says a workplace assessment in Columbia by an independent company found no serious violations. See Responsible Shopper for a lot more research on the Coca-Cola company.
Halliburton Subsidiary KBR: Labor in Iraq
9 October 2005 Chicago Tribune investigation says U.S. tax dollars are paying for illegal cheap foreign labor to support U.S. military efforts and reconstruction in Iraq. The article says KBR subcontractors use job brokers to hire laborers and take no responsibility for practices of the brokers. The brokers deceive laborers, put them in harm's way, and saddle them with huge fees. The laborers say they cannot leave because they must repay the money borrowed to pay the brokers. Workers hired by subcontractor PPI, most of whom gave interviews anonymously because they were not supposed to talk to journalists, said PPI refused to pay them until they handed over their passports to PPI. One worker noted this prevented them from transfering to another company. Both Halliburton and the U.S. Army referred questions regarding activities of subcontractors to the subcontractors.