Spotlight On Corporates Reveals Need For Global Rules - FoE International Publishes New Report

August 16, 2002

AMSTERDAM, Aug.16 -- Some corporations continue to abuse the rights of people, destroy the livelihoods of communities, and pollute water and forest resources for future generations, according to a new report by Friends of the Earth International published today.

The report graphically illustrates the need for governments to agree to introduce tighter rules for multinationals at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg.

Launched as world leaders prepare for the Earth Summit in Johannesburg later this month [ 1 ], Clashes with Corporate Giants [ 2 ] reveals how even some of the top international companies who claim to be developing sustainable policies, are still causing major damage to the planet.

Companies featured in the report include:

  • Mining giant Rio Tinto is prospecting for gold in the Poboya protected forest, in Indonesia, despite opposition from local indigenous peoples [ 3 ]. The mining industry poses one of the greatest threats to Indonesia's threatened forests with mining concessions overlapping with many protected areas. Rio Tinto is aiming to avoid international regulation of the mining industry at the forthcoming Earth Summit. It is trying to persuade governments to establish voluntary partnerships with the industry rather than legally enforceable rules. Rio Tinto Chairman Sir Robert Wilson is a member of the UK delegation.
  • South African-based chemical company Sasol claims to "put as much into the community as we do into our petrol." Indeed they do, including high levels of benzene, vinyl chloride and methylene chloride. Sasol has been influential in pushing for voluntary environmental agreements, rather than legally enforceable standards that the local community could use to hold them liable [ 4 ].

Friends of the Earth International is calling for world leaders meeting at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg to introduce global rules for business, to protect people and the environment. The call has so far met with little enthusiasm from Western governments.

But it has received the backing of many developing countries as well as thousands of people, community leaders and celebrities from around the world who have sent messages of support [ 5 ].

Tony Juniper, Vice Chair of Friends of the Earth International said today:

"The evidence in this report highlights the real damage companies are doing to people and to our environment. Despite big companies' green public relations efforts, it illustrates how, for many companies, sustainable development means business as usual. Without global rules to check this behaviour, the environment is not going to figure on the corporate bottom line - and it would be naïve to expect otherwise.

"This issue is about far more than protecting profits for shareholders - it is about the rights of people around the world to protect their health and their livelihoods, now and for future generations to come."

In Johannesburg, Friends of the Earth International today also unveiled preparations for its Art Action, Hear Our Voice, an installation of sculpture and sound. Produced by deprived communities in Johannesburg, thousands of small biodegradable figures, representing the diverse voices of people struggling to defend their lives, their communities and their environment, will confront a Corporate Giant, symbolising the unbridled power of the big corporations. Hear Our Voice will be displayed on September 1st [ 6 ].

For more information contact:

Corporates Campaigners
Matt Phillips
Friends of the Earth England, Wales, N.Ireland
Ph: +44-20- 7566 1660 or +44- 7817 314706

Ed Matthew
FOE EWNI for Rio Tinto
Ph: +44-20-7566 1720

Friends of the Earth International
Daniel Mittler
FoEI Earth Summit campaign coordinator
Ph: +49-173-9234747


[1] The UN World Summit on Sustainable Development takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa from 26th August to 4th September 2002.
[2] Clashes with Corporate Giants is published by Friends of the Earth International at . The report can be read from Thursday Aug 15th, 2002 after 12:00 GMT at: Advance PDF copies of the report are available from Friends of the Earth's press office on +44-20-75661649 or from the contacts below.
[3] More information from and
[4] Hear a full interview with Bobby Peek, FoE South Africa, on the impacts of Sasol at . See also
[5] Individuals around the world are sending sounds and messages to and these will be broadcast by Friends of the Earth at the Earth Summit.
[6] For more information contact Donald Pols (FoEI) in Johannesburg. Mobile: +27 72-2966 740 and visit