MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Letter no. 2

Published by MAC on 2004-08-15

Letter no. 2

Dear Mark,

Everyone has the right and the responsibility to be concerned about the environment. If, as we seem to agree, corporations now constitute the main threat to global ecosystems, we certainly cannot afford to ignore them. A first step must be to understand the role of corporations in environmental destruction and then expose these problems to the general public. Combined pressure from impacted peoples and communities, citizens, non-governmental organisations and then, hopefully, even governments, can make for change. We need to demand better regulation of runaway industries and encourage the companies themselves to reform their ways. Yes, this may mean talking to these companies directly, across the picket line and in the board room. But engaging in dialogues and partnerships with the companies that are currently trashing the planet has to be done carefully, if it is not to be counterproductive.

* In the first place, such dialogues and partnerships must be carried out in ways that don’t exclude those whose rights and livelihoods are directly impacted by the companies’ operations: no snug deals while outraged indigenous peoples are left out, again.
* Secondly, we mustn’t let companies use such dialogues and partnerships to ‘greenwash’ their overall operations. The planet won’t survive if we trade off getting funds for a few nice projects and national parks, in exchange for condoning sacrifice zones and unsustainable development outside them.
* Third, any such dialogues should be preconditioned on the companies agreeing to certain standards and norms as a base line for discussion: international human rights and environmental laws would be a good place to start. Agreeing to no destructive projects in protected areas would be another.

You say there should be ‘no mutual branding’ but FFI’s centenary publication in ‘FIRST – the Forum for Decision-makers’ does just that. There you lavishly offer glossy, green profile to corporate juggernauts like BP, Vodafone, British American Tobacco, ExxonMobil and Rio Tinto. Giving such companies positive spin without at the same time exposing their tragic records of environmental ruin is giving ‘conservation’ the bad name that, sadly, it increasingly deserves.

Marcus

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