Corporate Accountability Under the Spotlight

August 30, 2002

From Melbourne to Johannesburg

The poor performance, secrecy and unsustainable impacts of transnational corporations will be the focus of protest action by Australian environmentalists in both Melbourne and Johannesburg today. The Melbourne action, at the headquarters of mining giant Rio Tinto, coincides with the launch in Johannesburg of a new publicity campaign by global resource corporations.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) are urging governments to introduce meaningful rules for corporate accountability at the current Earth Summit in Johannesburg. Non-government organisations at the Summit are calling for a binding agreement on corporate accountability to control the detrimental environmental and social impacts of big business.

ìUnfortunately the Earth Summit is being used by corporations simply to push their own vested interests and governments are allowing this to happen,î said FoE spokesperson Ms Domenica Settle. ìIt is completely inappropriate that the executive chairman of Rio Tinto is attending this summit as part of the formal UK Government delegationî.

ìWe are holding this action at Rio Tinto in Melbourne today to highlight this companyís record of environmental and human rights violations and its continuing failure to match the reality of its operations with its glossy corporate rhetoric.î

Big business representatives at the Earth Summit are pushing for voluntary codes of conduct for multinationals, rather than a legally binding agreement between governments. The industry driven Global Mining Initiative (GMI), set to be unveiled in Johannesburg today, is the mining sectorís latest attempt to circumvent effective regulation and scrutiny.

ìVoluntary commitment to codes of conduct has proven to be a process of simply ëgreenwashingí the image of multinationals. Rio Tinto is a perfect example of the gap between the talk and the walk of corporations,î said Mark Wakeham from Johannesburg.

In the Poboya forest in Indonesia Rio Tinto has disregarded local laws protecting the natural habitat and is prospecting for gold, despite protests from local indigenous people.

The poor performance of Rio Tintoís uranium operations in Kakadu is the focus of a current Senate Inquiry and the company has failed to act on repeated calls by the regionís traditional owners for an end to the stalled and controversial Jabiluka project.

ìThe problem is the lack of independent monitoring and regulation of corporations,î said Mr Wakeham. ìFollowing the collapse of Enron and WorldCom in the USA along with Ansett and HIH in Australia people are increasingly calling for the effective regulation of corporations.î

The FoE Melbourne action will be held at Rio Tintoís HQ, 55 Collins Street, at noon today.

For further information contact:

Domenica Settle
Ph: (03) 9419 8700

Bruce Thompson
Mob: 0417 318 368

Mark Wakeham
Mob: 0412 853 641