Prize for worst company awarded on fringes of WEF

Monday, 31 January 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Campaigners awarded a prize for corporate malfeasance on Friday to South Africa-based gold miner AngloGold Ashanti for its operations in Ghana as top executives met at the World Economic Forum.

The award, organised by Greenpeace and Swiss left-wing group the Berne Declaration, went to the world’s third-largest gold mining firm, which they accused of mistreating people in Ghana and polluting rivers.

“The shortlisted cases presented here, one must say, are only examples for the countless, often undocumented monstrosities to raise shareholder value, to bring us consumers from wealthy countries cheap goods,” Bruno Heinzer from Greenpeace Switzerland told a news conference near the WEF.

The organisers of the award, called “Public Eye”, showed a clip from YouTube showing young men on crutches along with trucks driving in open-pit mines.

“It is a paradox for some of us that a country can have such mineral endowment,” said Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, president of the Ghanaian organisation WACAM, which nominated AngloGold.

“But the country is not growing in terms of economic development and we have poverty.”

AngloGold spokesman Alan Fine said he did not know what criteria were behind the organisation’s selection, adding the group never contacted AngloGold for comment.

“As far as we can ascertain, the vast bulk of what they refer to were events and things that happened a long time before AngloGold became active in Ghana in 2004,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on more companies to clean up their act as he launched a network of 54 big firms on Friday that pledged to do more to fight corruption, protect the environment and promoting human and labour rights.

“The premise is simple. When companies promote human rights, labour standards, environmental stewardship and anti-corruption measures throughout the organisation, it is good for business and it is good for society,” Ban told a news conference.

“More companies should take up the sustainability challenge for their own good and for the good of the world.”

Another award, determined by voting on Public Eye’s website, was given to Finland’s Neste Oil, which it said damages rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia by using palm oil in its biofuels.

The biofuel-maker beat out several other companies including oil giant BP, which had been shortlisted for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Simo Honkanen, Neste Oil’s senior vice president for sustainability, said he was surprised by the award as he said independent bodies had praised the company’s approach.

“We believe that we are one of the world’s most responsible companies buying palm oil today,” he said.