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Davos, 26.01.2005 - On 26 January 2005, the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Berne Declaration and Pro Natura present the first “Public Eye Awards” for irresponsible companies. The laureates of the “Public Eye Awards” are: The Dow Chemical Company, Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and KPMG International. The Public’s Award goes to Nestlé S.A.

Swiss cabaret artist and actor Patrick Frey presented the first Public Eye Awards Ceremony. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from all over the world had nominated more than 20 transnational companies. The supporting NGOs of the “Public Eye on Davos” selected four laureates from the nominees. They are model cases for all the corporate groups that have excelled in socially and environmentally irresponsible behaviour. They reveal the negative impacts of economic globalisation.
The “Public Eye Award” in the human rights category goes to the US corporate The Dow Chemical Company. The corporate group, which was nominated by Greenpeace Switzerland and the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, refuses to assume accountability for the consequences of the world’s largest chemical disaster in Bhopal, India, which has caused more than 20,000 casualties since 1984.

The winner in the environment category is the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. Even though the corporate group promised to stop gas flaring in Nigeria, it is not willing to keep its commitment and continues flaring despite the adverse impacts on local communities and the environment. In addition, the company has not cleaned up properly any of the numerous oil spills it caused in the Niger delta since 1956. Shell was nominated by Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The laureate of the labour law category is US retailing giant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. that was nominated by the Clean Clothes Campaign. The working conditions in Wal-Mart’s clothes supply factories in Africa and Asia are intolerable, ranging from excessive compulsory overtime to wages below the subsistence level.

In the taxes category the winner is KPMG International. The accountancy and consulting corporate group, headquartered in Amsterdam, has been developing tax saving models and is encouraging its clients to engage in aggressive tax avoidance. KPMG International was nominated by the Tax Justice Network.

Many people from all over the world voted on the “Public Eye” website for the most blatant case of corporate irresponsibility. The clear winner and thus laureate of the Public’s Award is Nestlé. The Swiss food and beverages company is criticised for labour conflicts in Colombia and for its aggressive marketing methods for baby food, which jeopardize breastfeeding. Nestlé was nominated by the Kampagne für Menschenrechte (Gewerkschaft Bau und Industrie, ATTAC, Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz-Kolumbien, Grua Suiza), by Baby Milk Action/Nestlé Boycott Committee and the Berne Declaration.

In her opening speech, the British economist Noreena Hertz said: ”Workers and communities everywhere must be able to safeguard basic rights to minimum health and safety standards at work, to minimum wages, and not be dispossessed without adequate compensation. Multinational corporations must not be allowed to infringe these rights, wherever it is that they operate.” Therefore, she argued that legislative reforms are needed as to ensure that parent companies can be held responsible for the actions of their subsidiaries.

“The Public Eye on Davos”, which takes place for the sixth time this year, is organised by the Berne Declaration and Pro Natura as an alternative event to the WEF. The two organisations are convinced that public discussion and pressure are needed in order to make corporate groups act in a more accountable way. Being the beneficiaries of economic globalisation, they are urged to assume their responsibility and introduce sustainable business strategies instead of enforcing tough choices at the expense of local communities and the environment. The theme of the WEF 2005, “Taking Responsibility for Tough Choices”, has to be interpreted to meet the needs of society. Pro Natura and the Berne Declaration demand legally binding international rules for corporate accountability. The UN Global Compact and other voluntary initiatives are insufficient since they include neither rules for implementation nor monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms.