New Internationalist

Which is the world’s worst company?


Shell are one of the companies nominated. Photo: didbygraham, under a CC License.

Reputation isn’t always a good thing. In an age of ‘corporate social responsibility’, corporations definitely don’t want to be known as ‘the worst company of the year’.

The Public Eye Awards have been airing the dirty washing of nominated companies since the year 2000 as a counter event to the World Economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the business and political élite meet annually.

Run by NGO Berne Declaration and Greenpeace, the two titles bestowed on the lucky companies are the publicly decided People’s Award and the Jury Award, decided by a panel.

More than 88,000 people voted in 2012, with mining firm VALE and Barclays Bank winning the awards. Barclays was nominated for driving up food prices, but by the end of the year it had hinted it would quit food speculation.

The Public Eye Awards 2013 will be made on Thursday 24 January at an international press conference. Battling it out are:

Alstom

The stench of corruption follows French energy and transport company Alstom across the globe as scandal after scandal hits. It has regularly been accused of bribing local politicians in order to secure contracts, despite more than one fine and some subsidiaries being excluded from the World Bank.

Coal India

The world’s largest coal producer operates 90 per cent of India’s coal mines. It has been nominated because of the destruction of animal habitats and displacement of people from their homes and livelihoods which is brought about by its fast-breeding mining projects. Their workers are said to face dangerous conditions; in 2010, 205 workers died. Surface mining in India is a massive threat to the Indian tiger.

G4S

2012 was the year that G4S incompetence made British headlines with alarming regularity, but Olympic security blunders were just the tip of the iceberg. The British firm has around 650,000 employees working in security and boasts the largest private army in the world. Operating in 125 countries, it has faced accusations which include violations of international law and human rights. And as state-run services are increasingly outsourced we are likely to see a lot more of G4S in 2013.

Goldman Sachs

Described as ‘the vampire of finance capital’ by the Awards, and with a former employee describing the environment within the company as ‘toxic and destructive’, Goldman Sachs stands accused of taking massive fees to hide half of Greece’s public debt through accounting trickery. And with a quarter of Greeks now at risk of poverty, Goldman Sachs is apparently laughing all the way to the bank – it will clear $10 billion from the crash.

Lonmin

In 2012, 44 striking mine workers at the Marikana Mine in South Africa were shot dead by police and over 60 were seriously injured. The miners were employees of Lonmin, the world’s third-largest mining company. Lonmin management had urged action to be taken against protesters. After the deaths of their employees, the company threatened any workers continuing to strike with dismissal.

Repower

Repower is likely to be getting a few votes from Calabria in Italy, where it is building a coal-fired power plant despite local opposition. Repower is reportedly ploughing resources into its propaganda effort, and its political consultant apparently insulted opponents on local television by calling them alcoholics. The region is also in the heart of Mafia-land, so doing business with them seems inevitable.

Shell

Perhaps the biggest name on the list, Shell could be described as a ‘leader’ in this type of ranking. Shell has been nominated for stepping up the hunt for fossil fuels in the fragile Alaskan Arctic and dropping renewable energy completely from their long-term strategy. Specialists have said that they are aware of no method to recover spilt oil from the Alaskan Arctic and the US government has renewed a review of their activity in the region. The company already strip-mines in the boreal forest as part of the Canadian tar sands, where it is the third-largest operator.

It’s easy to wonder why there is not an ‘all of the above’ tick-box!

To find out more about the nominees and to cast your vote, go to the Public Eye Awards website. Online voting is open until 23 January.

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