Roche and the Royal Bank of Canada: Worthy Public Eye Award Winners

Davos, 27.01.2010 - Within sight of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Berne Declaration (BD) and Greenpeace have today crowned the most socially and environmentally unscrupulous firms of the year. The non-state-owned Royal Bank of Canada and the Basel-based pharmaceutical firm Roche each won a well-deserved 2010 Public Eye Award. In the online voting for the People’s Award, again Roche held on to win with over 20,000 participants in a head-to-head contest against GDF Suez. Meanwhile, the first Greenwash Award went to the highly dubious U.N. Water Mandate.

At the eleventh Public Eye in Davos, Greenpeace Switzerland and the BD have “honored” two corpo-rations and an institution whose irresponsible dealings with humans and the environment demonstrate the shady side of rampant, profit-oriented neoliberalism. “The ongoing financial crisis has mercilessly revealed the fundamental flaws of capitalism as we knew it, thus making it only now treatable,” said Nobel Laureate in Economics Joseph E. Stiglitz in a video statement instead of in person as planned. The pioneer of legally-binding rules for transnational corporations also warned that “the market fun-damentalists sense another chance,” and are attempting “to weaken newly-awakened self-assured policies.”

The Royal Bank of Canada wins this year’s Global Award. Canada’s best-performing corporation is pilloried for its role as the world-leading financier of oil sands companies, which extract the dirtiest crude oil in the world in the province of Alberta out of an area that is larger than Switzerland and Aus-tria combined. In his laudatory speech, Brant Olson from California-based Rainforest Action Net-work spoke of “one of the great environmental sins of the twenty-first century” and called on the firms’ primary investor to make a “definitive renunciation of this medieval climate-killing industry.”

Roche cleaned up with two anti-Oscars: the Swiss Award and the People’s Award. This double honor shows that both the panel of experts and the Internet community strongly condemn the business prac-tices of the Basel-based pharma corporation. Roche conducts clinical studies in China of its drug CellCept, developed to prevent organ rejection. However more than 90 percent of transplanted organs in China come from executed prisoners. Roche either cannot or will not say where the more than 300 organs in its studies came from. For Patrick Durisch from the nominating organization the Berne Declaration, “This is a particularly cynical case where the search for profits triumphs over human rights.” He accordingly calls for “the immediate halt to these scandalous studies.”

The panel bestowed the newly-created Greenwash Award on the U.N. Water Mandate, launched within the framework of the Global Compact. In this “club,” corporations that profit financially from wa-ter as a primary resource such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical profess to be combatting the water crisis alongside U.N. organizations and NGOs. Instead, according to Richard Girard from Can-ada’s Polaris Institute, “they continue to systematically pursue their policies of water privatization un-der the U.N. emblem,” without consideration for existing mandatory environmental and social stan-dards.

Further Information (including voting results, speeches and an event video) at