By Daniel Hunter
Today (Thursday), within eyeshot of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Greenpeace Switzerland and the Berne Declaration (BD) presented the Public Eye Awards, thus denouncing particularly glaring cases of companies' greed for profit and environmental sins.
The US bank Goldman Sachs receives this year's jury award. The public award goes, with a large winning margin, to the oil corporation Shell, in accordance with the wishes of 41,800 online voters. The star guests at the media conference in Davos were the author, economist and former bank regulator Professor William K. Black and the renowned business ethicist Dr Ulrich Thielemann.
Greenpeace Switzerland and the BD presented the Public Eye Awards 2013 to two corporations which serve as examples of WEF members and companies whose social and ecological misdeeds show the downside of purely profit-oriented globalisation:
Goldman Sachs receives the jury award. This US banking firm is a key player in financially driven globalisation, which pays for the profits of a few with exploding inequality and the impoverishment of broad strata.
Here is what Andreas Missbach, financial expert from the Berne Declaration, has to say about it: "Goldman's derivative deals, which fudged Greece's way into the Eurozone, pawned the future of the Greek people. Moreover, the managers of Goldman Sachs are masters of the revolving door: they secure the bank tomorrow's business via changes in political and public offices."
Michael Baumgartner, Chairman of the Public Eye Awards jury, adds: "Not only is Goldman Sachs one of the main winners of the financial crisis, this bank is also a key player in the raw materials casino: it has tapped into these markets as a new source of income and destabilised raw material prices. When food prices break all records, like in 2008, millions of people are plunged into hunger and hardship."
Professor William K. Black, a star guest at today's award ceremony, is a renowned author, economist and former banking regulator who spoke in Davos about the criminal energy of corporations, the oligarchy of the finance industry and the state of democracy. On Goldman Sachs, he says: "The central point that I want to stress as a white-collar criminologist and effective financial regulator is that Goldman Sachs is not a singular 'rotten apple' in a healthy bushel of banks. Goldman Sachs is the norm for systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) (the so-called 'too big to fail' banks)."
Shell is always involved in particularly controversial, risky and dirty oil production projects. Thus, this Dutch-British corporation, chosen by online users for the public naming and shaming award, is also out in front in the highly risky search for fossil fuels in the fragile Arctic. This has been made possible by climate change and the disappearance of the Arctic ice cap, to which Shell has contributed. Every Arctic offshore oil project means new CO2 emissions.
The Arctic's oil reserves are enough for just three years. For this, Shell is jeopardising one of the Earth's last natural paradises and endangering the living space of four million people, as well as unique fauna. In recent months, this corporation has gone through an alarming series of mishaps in the region, and it has not even started on the oil wells yet. Shell’s safety measures defy description. Experts are certain that an oil catastrophe could occur at any time and would be almost uncontainable under the conditions which prevail in the Arctic. Kumi Naidoo, Director of Greenpeace International, says: "Shell has invested 4.5 billion dollars into a senseless, highly risky plan and only produces problems. The Public Eye Awards vote shows that the public keeps an eye on Shell and that its pigheadedness will continue to be sanctioned by public opinion."
Dr Ulrich Thielemann, Director of the Berlin think tank Denkfabrik für Wirtschaftsethik and, from 2001 to 2010, Vice-Director of the University of St. Gallen's Institute for Business Ethics, represented the scientific community in initiatives such as Public Eye: "Ruthless competition on the backs of human rights and environmental standards via non-regulation and the race to the bottom in standards of good corporate conduct must come to an end. Truly responsible corporations would applaud this step (regulation), as it would free them from the dirty competition of corporate wrongdoers."
Alongside Goldman Sachs and Shell, the five companies Alstom (FR), Coal India (IN), G4S (UK), Lonmin (ZA) and Repower (CH) were also nominated for the two naming and shaming awards.
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