'Greenest ever' Olympics claims dismissed as corporate spin


London Mining Network

Date of publication: 
16 April 2012

The London Mining Network, of which PIPLinks is a founding member, recently teamed up with a number of corporate campaigns to focus on corporate sponsorship for the Olympics. Please go to http://www.greenwashgold.org & vote for your favourite.


‘Greenest ever’ Olympics claims dismissed as corporate spin

Nina Lakhani, Independent (UK) – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/greenest-ever-olympics-cla...

16 April 2012

Lord Coe’s claim that London 2012 will be the greenest ever Olympic Games is “corporate spin” say human rights groups, who today launch a campaign to highlight the environmental record of three multinational sponsors.

BP, Rio Tinto and Dow Chemical Company, who have paid tens of millions of pounds to become Olympic sponsors, collectively face allegations of causing environmental degradation, damaging public health and failing to clean up their pollution.

The companies, who are respectively providing fuel for the Olympic fleet, metal for medals and an ornate stadium wrap, will be criticised by a coalition of international grassroots organisations as part of their ‘Greenwash Gold 2012’ campaign in London.

Meredith Alexander, the former Olympics ‘ethics tsar’ who earlier this year resigned from the Commission for a Sustainable London over sponsorship controversies, will chair activists from the United States, Mongolia, Canada and India.

Alongside personal stories about how communities have allegedly been adversely affected by the companies’ activities, award-winning animators will screen short films about each company to reveal the “the green spin”. Medals will be presented to the companies in July based on the outcome of a public vote for the “worst corporate sponsor”.

Greenwashing is a form of spin by companies to promote themselves as environmentally and socially responsible. The term was coined by American environmentalist, Jay Westervelt, in 1986 regarding the hotel industry’s practice of placing notices in each room promoting reuse of towels to save the environment.

Alexander told The Independent: “The UK promised that London 2012 would be the greenest games ever, but when it came to picking sponsors it seems someone didn’t get the memo. The International Olympic Committee managed to select Dow, which owns the company ultimately responsible for Bhopal, one of the most polluted sites on the planet; a major mining polluter in the form of Rio Tinto; and BP who are investing in the dirtiest form of oil. Recycling rubbish and energy efficiency schemes are fantastic, but they can’t make up for a failure to scrutinise sponsors.”

All three companies maintain they are socially and environmentally responsible, and invest millions in clean technologies and community programmes.

Rio Tinto said it is providing the eight tonnes of metal for 4,700 gold, silver and bronze medals from its mines in Utah and Mongolia. The company is accused of threatening the existence of nomadic indigenous people in Mongolia who are being displaced by the operation. The Oyu Tolgoi mine in the South Gobi desert is already placing significant strain on scarce water resources, warned the London Mining Network.

According to Zanna Jurmed, from the Mongolian rights group, Centre for Citizens Alliance, there are not enough doctors, hospitals and medicines in the nearby town to cope with the massive increase in population – mainly Chinese construction workers. “How can a company that destroys thousands of shrubs and wastes millions of litres of water in a desert be a green partner?” he said.

Rio Tinto’s mine near Salt Lake City is alleged to account for around 30 per cent of the air pollution in the state. Doctors report high rates of asthma and lung disease among children, and hundreds of premature deaths every year.

The Utah Moms for Clean Air and the Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment have recently filed a law suit against the company for violations of the Clean Air Act.

Rio Tinto said: “We operate within the parameters of our air permits and are consistently in compliance with air quality regulations, which are based on strict standards for protecting human health. The environmental concerns of our community align with our goals to be leaders in improving Utah’s air quality.”

A spokeswoman added: “We are committed to maintaining, developing and conserving the water supply for Oyu Tolgoi and the local communities throughout the South Gobi region, including the herders and their livestock… indeed we have committed to zero impact on community water sources.”

BP has a prominent role in the Olympics, providing the fuel for 5,000 vehicles in the Olympic fleet, sponsoring teams and the Shakespeare festival as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

BP’s controversial venture in Alberta, Canada is regarded by campaigners as evidence that the company’s environmental claims do not stand up. The extraction and processing of tar sands in order to make oil is carbon intensive, polluting and damaging to the eco system, whichever technology is used, they say.

A Nasa scientist recently warn that full development of tar sands would mean “game over” for the climate. BP has interests in three areas in Alberta, and expects to see the first oil in 2014. Meanwhile, it is winding down its solar energy operation. A BP spokesman said: “We have interests in three proposed areas in Canada. Only one – Sunrise – has been approved and is under development… using steam assisted gravity drainage, not mining… Sunrise is being developed under the full environmental and social requirements of the government regulators.”

The ongoing economic, health and environmental fall-out from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 makes their association with the Green Games “totally absurd”, according to Derrick Evans, an activist campaigning for the rights of coastal communities in the Gulf.

The $20bn trust fund set up by BP to compensate “individuals, businesses, and government entities, clean-up costs, and any natural resource damages”, is not reaching families on the ground, [quickly enough] according to Evans, who works closely with families across five Gulf states still waiting for their payments.

Jess Worth, from the UK Tar Sands Network, said: “BP has bought itself the prestigious title of London 2012 ‘Sustainability Partner’, but this is dangerous greenwash. Its entire business is geared towards keeping the world addicted to fossil fuels and driving us towards uncontrollable climate change. And the Olympics are helping BP get away with it.”

BP said it was committed to paying all legitimate claims and had already paid out $8bn to individuals, businesses, and governments. The spokesman added: “London 2012 sponsorship is an investment in our business and brand and does not have any impact on funds available for unrelated matters.”

Dow is sponsoring the £14m Olympic stadium wrap. It also has contracts to provide the artificial grass for hockey pitches and roof insulation for some stadiums and accommodation in the Olympic village.

Campaigners say Dow’s failure to make Union Carbide Corporation, its wholly owned subsidiary since 2001, appear before the Indian criminal court to face outstanding charges related to the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, and its refusal to pay a share of the clean-up of contaminated water and land, make it an unsuitable Olympic partner.

A Dow spokesman said the company “has no connection to the [Bhopal] tragedy or its aftermath. Dow never owned, operated or inherited Union Carbide India Limited’s Bhopal site and has no liability or responsibility for it.”

The campaigners also highlight that Dow was found guilty in September 2010 of bribing Indian officials in order to register banned pesticides. Dow Agro Sciences Pvt Ltd (a 100 per cent owned subsidiary) was blacklisted by the Indian Agriculture Ministry for five years. Dow said it discovered and reported the unethical behaviour to the authorities. A spokesman said: “We have strong ethics and compliance culture and expect all employees to abide by these stringent policies and procedures and conduct themselves with high integrity.

He added: “We could not disagree more with the groups’ characterization of the company. In fact, sustainability is one of the company’s four strategic themes and is governed by our CEO and Executive Leadership Committee– it factors into everything the company does.”

Locog did not respond to requests for comment.

Case study

Cherise Udell is the founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air. She started getting repeated sinus infections and a chronic sore throat after moving to Salt Lake City in 2005. The city, which lies in a valley and is only 30 miles from the mine, sufferers from ozone layer problems every summer and high Particle Matter levels every winter. Her daughters, aged 7 and 5, are “lucky” because they do not have asthma but suffer from sinus and ear infections every year. All the city’s children are stopped from playing outside and doing PE on the really bad days, which are among the worst in the US. Her sore throat and runny nose only clear up when she leave the city.

She said: “In Utah, Rio Tinto is the number one emitter of toxins known to cause harm to human health. Every year, between 1000 and 2000 Utahans die prematurely due to chronic air pollution and Rio Tinto’s Bingham mine is responsible for about 30 per cent of this.

“So it’s ironic that they are awarding athletic excellence using metals mined from my community where our children’s lungs are being damaged by the mining… We are not trying to close down their mine. We all use their products, but we want them to pay a fair price for doing their business – which means cleaning up.”

A Rio Tinto spokeswoman said: “We are committed to having reliable and efficient operations, reducing our environmental impacts and working within our community to improve air quality in Utah. We are investing in upgrading our power plants to make significant reductions in emissions.


Protest groups target Olympics sponsors with new campaign

Co-ordinated campaign aimed against companies accused of using Games to ‘greenwash’ unethical corporate activities

Owen Gibson, Olympics editor

Guardian – http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/apr/15/protest-groups-olympics-spon...

15 April 2012

A coalition of pressure groups will on Monday unveil a new campaign against three controversial sponsors of the London Olympics, accusing them of using the Games to “greenwash” unethical corporate activities.

With the growing prospect of protests at the Games by groups seeking to highlight the activities of its corporate backers and others planning to use it as a broader canvas to protest against capitalism, the Greenwash Gold campaign marks a new level of co-ordination.

The coalition – bringing together protest groups campaigning against Olympic sponsors Dow Chemical, BP and Rio Tinto – is chaired by Meredith Alexander, who quit as a commissioner of the London 2012 sustainability watchdog over Dow’s $100m (£63m) deal with the International Olympic Committee and its agreement with London organisers to fund the £7m wrap that will surround the stadium.

The three companies have been made the subject of short animated films, with members of the public invited to vote online for the “worst corporate sponsor of the Olympics”. The company that tops the poll will receive the “Greenwash gold medal” from organisers, who claim that the involvement of the companies is putting the image of the London Games at risk.

“The modern Olympics was founded here in the UK to promote peace and understanding between the peoples of the world. The Olympic values are all about celebrating our common humanity,” said Alexander.

“But the Olympics is also big business. There is an expensive machine behind the Games that is funded by corporate sponsors. Sadly when these sponsors are selected, money talks much more loudly than values.”

She said the strength of the UK’s campaigning sector would help shine a light on the issue and put pressure on the IOC to change the way it selects sponsors.

“The fact that it’s difficult to know where to draw the line doesn’t mean a line shouldn’t be drawn. What the IOC is doing at the moment is putting its hands up and giving up. Given the value of the Olympic brand to these companies, I think that is unacceptable,” said Alexander.

She said that while London organisers had made some positive moves in trying to encourage ethical suppliers, the IOC had been reluctant to use its power to force companies to raise their standards before signing up as sponsors.

The IOC’s so-called TOP sponsors pay at least $100m each for 10-year contracts, while Tier One sponsors for the London Games alone have paid around £40m each. London 2012 organisers have raised £700m from domestic sponsors towards the £2bn cost of staging the Games.

Dow’s sponsorship has proved controversial with campaigners, who claim it has outstanding liabilities relating to the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, which killed up to 20,000 people and injured tens of thousands more.

The company denies the claims, arguing it was neither the owner nor operator of Union Carbide, the plant’s owner at the time of the disaster, and that the company had divested of its Indian assets by the time Dow acquired it in 1999.

But protesters, led by a group of MPs headed by Barry Gardiner and including London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone, also have a long list of other grievances. Following a demonstration during a recent IOC inspection visit, London 2012 chairman Lord Coe agreed to meet with protesters.

BP has been targeted by protest groups including the UK Tar Sands Network, which believe that the extraction of polluting tar sands and the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster make it “one of the least sustainable companies on earth”.

BP is the lead sponsor of the Cultural Olympiad, has organised a Young Leaders mentoring programme and is encouraging those travelling to the Games to offset their carbon in campaigns featuring the likes of Jessica Ennis.

But Jess Worth, from the UK Tar Sands Network, said: “BP has bought itself the prestigious title of London 2012 sustainability partner. But this is dangerous greenwash. BP is one of the least sustainable companies on earth, responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the extraction of highly-polluting tar sands. Its entire business is geared towards keeping the world addicted to fossil fuels and driving us towards uncontrollable climate change.”

Also present at a launch event will be representatives from some of the communities that claim to have been affected by the activities of the three multinational companies.

They include a survivor of the Bhopal disaster, an organiser from an indigenous communities in Canada fighting BP’s tar sands operation, and a woman from Utah who campaigns against alleged air pollution caused by one of the mines from which Rio Tinto is providing the metal for Olympic medals.

Cherise Udell, the founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, said: “I was delighted to learn that the 2012 Olympic committee was aiming for the greenest Olympics ever. Then I heard that Rio Tinto metal from our controversial Utah mine would be used to make the medals. In Utah, Rio Tinto are the number one emitter of toxins known to cause harm to human health.”

All three companies have defended their ethical record and their involvement in the Games.

In the wake of a stunt last week that fooled some media outlets into believing BP had been dropped as a sponsor, Mike Sharrock, BP’s partnership director for London 2012, said: “What we’ll try and do is just focus on what we’re doing. We’re confident our contribution is a positive one. What we have tried to do is make sure that everything we’re doing is credible and authentic.”

The Metropolitan police and Paul Deighton, chief executive of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, have said that peaceful protest would be facilitated but that disruption will be clamped down on.

“I have a simple philosophical view about this. People have the right to protest and express their point of view. I think that’s wonderful,” said Deighton. “When it gets to the point where their clamour for recognition stifles the joy of millions, we all have to look at it and deal with it.”


Games sponsors put under spotlight

UK Press Association – http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5g-YeMSrpgCXmGMhMh...

16 April 2012

Human rights and environmental pressure groups have joined forces in a campaign against three sponsors of the London Olympics.

The protest campaign – called Greenwash Gold 2012 – have Dow Chemical Company, BP and Rio Tinto in their sights.

Meredith Alexander, who quit as a commissioner of the 2012’s sustainability watchdog in protest over the link between the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India and Dow Chemical Company’s involvement with London’s showpiece Olympic Stadium, is chairing the campaign launch.

The group has made three short animated films about the companies and members of the public will be invited to vote online for the “worst corporate sponsor of the Olympics”.

Ms Alexander said: “The Olympics are meant to be about so much more than how fast Usain Bolt can run or how many medals Britain’s finest athletes score.

“The modern Olympics was founded here in the UK to promote peace and understanding between the peoples of the world.

“The Olympic values are all about celebrating our common humanity.

“But the Olympics is also big business. There is an expensive machine behind the Games that is funded by corporate sponsors. Sadly when these sponsors are selected, money talks much more loudly than values.

“As an ex-member of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, I know first hand just how little scrutiny is allowed when sponsors are chosen. Greenwash Gold 2012 is a chance to turn this around by letting the public vote for the least ethical sponsor.”

All three companies have defended their ethical record.