Monday, December 23, 2013

10 Companies Vying for 2013 Corporate Hall of Shame: What’s Your Pick for the Worst Offender?

10 Companies Vying for 2013 Corporate Hall of Shame: What’s Your Pick for the Worst Offender?

There is tight competition this year, time to get your vote in.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Monsanto is a tough act to follow. When it comes to despised companies, it's set the bar pretty high. Last year the company claimed the top prize in Corporate Accountability International’s Corporate Hall of Shame. That may have had something to do with Monsanto evangelizing toxic chemicals, bullying small farmers and steamrolling GMO right-to-know legislation.
Corporate Accountability International has spent decades working to hold law-flouting companies accountable for their environmental, health and human rights abuses. The organization has taken on the tobacco lobby, water privatization and junk food behemoths that target children with relentless advertising. In 1992 they launched their Corporate Hall of Shame. Recent winners include Monsanto in both 2012 and 2010 and Koch Industries in 2011. In 2007 and 2008 they picked three winners: Exxon, Halliburton and Wal-Mart (2007) and Blackwater, Archer Daniels Midland, and Wal-Mart (2008). 
"Of note, in the 1990s and early 2000s, Corporate Accountability International used the Hall of Shame to not only identify corporate abuse but also launch campaigns to successfully challenge those corporations' behaviors," said Corporate Accountability International's Kara Kaufman. "For instance, Waste Management significantly reduced lobbying and campaign contributions after grassroots efforts following the corporation's induction into the Hall of Shame in 1996. In 1998, Columbia/HCA was inducted into the Hall of Shame, prompting a three-year campaign to challenge its practice of taking over nonprofit and community-owned hospitals, dumping patients without insurance, and using its political clout to get away with these abuses. In 2000, Columbia/HCA altered its policies and practices to limit its political role, dramatically reducing its lobbying force and halting its election contributions."
Below are CAI’s top 10 picks for 2013. Cast your vote for the worst offender here.
1. Walmart
It’s been tough year for Walmart, what with tens of thousands of people protesting against the corporation at 1,500 events on Black Friday. But it’s been an even worse year for its workers who have had to risk arrest and their jobs for engaging in civil disobedience to expose Walmart’s low wages and dehumanizing corporate culture.
“By pioneering tactics to cut labor costs and avert labor organizing, and instigating imitation among suppliers, subcontractors, competitors and admirers across industries, Walmart is hastening a transformation in U.S. work, toward an ever-more-present future in which workers—whether fast food cashiers or adjunct professors—lack living wages, workplace democracy, job security or even legal recognition as employees,” wrote Josh Eidelson.  
2. ExxonMobil
The oil giant has a big mess to clean up after its Pegasus pipeline gushed a minimum of 5,000 barrels of heavy crude from the Canadian tar sands all over a Mayflower, Arkansas neighborhood in March. Nine months later the community is still reeling. 
“Nearly half of them have put their houses up for sale in search of a fresh start they never wanted,” wrote Sam Eifling and Zahra Hirji for Inside Climate News about the affected residents. “Some people were forced to sell because oil settled in their homes' foundations, where removing it is nearly impossible. Others chose to leave because of fears about potential health effects and the marketability of their properties. Those who are staying aren't necessarily doing so by choice: Many don't have enough equity to afford a down payment on a new home in another suburb, according to local real estate brokers.” 
3. Koch Industries
Where to begin? The Koch brothers have spent nearly $50 million funding climate deniers and blocking action on climate change according to a report by Greenpeace. And the privately held company operates in a shroud of secrecy.
“Few Americans have likely heard of Koch, even though it operates crude oil refineries and pipelines across North America and owns such well-known consumer brands as Dixie cups, Brawny and Quilted Northern paper products, Stainmaster carpet, CoolMax and Lycra,” wrote Brendan DeMelle on Huffington Post. “Koch Industries has bankrolled Americans for Prosperity to the tune of over $5 million since 2005. AFP—known primarily for its role in organizing the Tea Party movement in the U.S.—brought notorious climate denier Lord Christopher Monckton to the Copenhagen climate summit as its guest speaker.”
4. Proctor and Gamble
P&G makes cosmetics, personal care products and cleaning products. It's been lambasted for failing to remove ingredients from products that may cause cancer or reproductive harm, although it did consent earlier this year to removing the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane from Tide and other laundry detergents. Was the baby step big enough?
5. Bank of America
Bank of America has ignited protests across social movements for its role in the housing crisis and shady foreclosures. BoA also helps to bankroll the dirty coal industry, aiding in the funding of mountaintop removal mining and the construction of new coal-burning power plants. “Bank of America and Citi pumped a combined $263 billion into fossil fuel companies since 2010,” wrote Todd Zimmer about the growing divestment campaign hitting college campuses that is becoming a major headache for BoA.
6. Coca-Cola
In the name of protecting its Dasani bottled water brand, Coca-Cola has been accused of obstructing efforts by national parks to replace bottled water with reusable bottles and water refilling stations (known in the old days as water fountains). I guess its rationale is that the Grand Canyon would surely seem more of an iconic American attraction if it was filled with plastic bottles courtesy of Coca-Cola. 
7. DuPont
Last November when California voters went to the polls, a ballot initiative to require the labeling of genetically modified foods was narrowly defeated. Some of the thanks for that goes to DuPont. The corporate contingency against labeling had some big money. DuPont joined forces with Monsanto and the American Grocery Manufactures Association (a trade group representing big food and beverage companies) to fund the opposition. Thanks for nothing!
8. Halliburton
The military contractor has been doing its best to weaken regulations protecting drinking water in states like North Carolina, paving the way for more hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) of oil and gas. Halliburton pioneered the practice and helped it get exemption from the Clean Water Act and other federal regulations thanks to friends (Dick Cheney) in high places. 
9. Nestle
Is the right to clean water a basic human right? Not when you're like Nestle and are in the business of making money off of it. Nestle has earned the ire of numerous communities when the company has tried to cash in on communities' water resource.
10. Monsanto
What do you think -- can the multinational pull off a win two years in a row?
To weigh in on this list and find out how you can get involved, click on over to Corporate Accountability International's Corporate Hall of Shamebefore the polls close on December 31.

Tara Lohan, a senior editor at AlterNet, has just launched the new project Hitting Home, chronicling extreme energy extraction. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis, including most recently, Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. Follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

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