BHP Billiton defends its Olympic rolePublished by MAC on 2008-05-05
The globe's biggest mining company has responded to demands that it use its influence over the Chinese regime to pressure it against continued backing of Sudan's miitary actions in Darfur.
A company spokesperson claims that: "As one of many sponsors, we are not in a position to arbitrate the merits of each cause, nor should we try."
The response is disingenuous, to say the least. BHP Billiton has pushed its own commercial objectives in China for more than a hundred years. Nor is it simply adding its name to a list of other corporate sponsors: as pointed out on this site last year, BHP Billiton is providing the metals from which all the Olympic medals will be forged for the forthcoming games. See:
Where, one might ask, does such a statement leave BHP Billiton's much-vaunted policy on corporate social responsibility?
Another key mining company supplying vital ore to China is Rio Tinto, which so far has not sponsored the Olympics.
The UK congomerate is on record (via a statement made by its then-chair, Robert Wilson, in the late 1990s) as refusing to invest in Tibet so long as it remains militarilised by Chinese forces.
[comment by Nostromo Research, London, 29 April 2008]
Olympic sponsor BHP fails to placate Mia Farrow over Darfur
28th April 2008
BHP Billiton has incurred the wrath of campaigners who are now planning a series of demonstrations against the company for its backing of the Beijing Olympics.
The mining giant is one of a handful of major corporate sponsors of the Games being targeted by Dream for Darfur - the group led by actress Mia Farrow which argues that the Chinese regime is supporting the genocide in Darfur by propping up the Sudanese government.
It has called on the 19 major international sponsors to use their influence and call for an end to alleged Chinese interference in Sudan. After three months of campaigning, the group issued a "report card" on the companies this week, giving BHP the worst possible grade of "F", along with other companies such as industrial conglomerate General Electric, McDonald's and Johnson & Johnson.
Dream for Darfur is holding a series of demonstrations against Coca-Cola and office supplier Staples across America today and wants to extend protests across the globe, including against BHP. Of the major sponsors, only Kodak and Adidas received a "B+" for writing open letters to the United Nations, urging the body to enforce Resolution 1769, which authorised a peacekeeping force for the region but has never been implemented.
In a letter to Mia Farrow, Tom Harley, BHP's president of corporate development, insisted the company should not get involved in the matter.
"As one of many sponsors, we are not in a position to arbitrate the merits of each cause, nor should we try," he said.
The issue is particularly sensitive for BHP, which is currently in talks with Chinese steelmakers over iron ore prices.