Neste Oil and AngloGold in the Public Eye Pillory in Davos

Zurich, 28.01.2011 - Within sight of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Berne Declaration (BD) and Greenpeace today denounced the particularly flagrant human rights abuses and environmental sins committed by corporations. The jury-selected Global Award was presented to the South African mining company AngloGold/Ashanti. The People’s Award, determined by Internet voting, went to the Finnish agrofuel concern Neste Oil. Over 50,000 people took part in the online voting. Also during the press conference, OpenLeaks co-founder Daniel Domscheit-Berg called for more transparency and ethics from the business world.

With the 2011 Public Eye Awards, BD and Greenpeace “reward” two corporations that exemplify those WEF members and enterprises whose social and environmental offenses expose the flip side of purely profit-oriented globalization. For the contamination of land and poisoning of people from gold mining in Ghana, the South African mining corporation AngloGold/Ashanti receives the jury-selected Public Eye Global Award. In his laudatory address in Davos, Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, President of the nominating organization WACAM, told of mining waste that contaminates rivers and wells, from which entire villages must drink. In addition, local residents were occasionally tortured in the company’s guard house; some cases resulted in fatalities.

For the Web-based Public Eye People’s Award, mobilizing more than twice as many voters this year as in 2010, Neste Oil cleaned up with 17'385 votes, thus relegating BP (13'000) and Philip Morris (8'052) to runners-up. The Finnish biofuel producer – and soon the world’s largest palm oil purchaser – sells bio-diesel Europe-wide under the shameless name “Green Diesel.” The huge jump in demand for palm oil fuels rain forest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia, threatening the remaining refuges of the already endangered orangutan.

With the looming “shame award” on the horizon, Finnair has attempted to distance itself at the last minute from a planned major project with Neste kerosene.

The sponsoring and nominating organizations of the Public Eye Awards have long been calling on governments to implement legally-binding rules for more corporate responsibility. Therefore civil society welcomes the framework outlined by John Ruggie, U.N. Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, that calls for state protection, corporate respect, and legal help for victims, and which will be adopted by the Human Rights Council in mid-2011. According to Ruggie, only through systematic “knowing and showing” will corporations be able to avoid future cases of public “naming and shaming” like that meted out by the Public Eye.

The co-founder of the OpenLeaks project, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, would also like to see more transparency and ethics in corporations. “Both meet a fast-growing societal need,” says the former WikiLeaks spokesperson. In the success of digital whistle-blowing, Domscheit-Berg sees “a powerful signal to the business world: Those who do not proactively establish transparency top-down, run an increased risk that it will be created, bottom-up, by whistle-blowers.”