London Olympics Faces Public Meltdown For Dow Chemical Sponsorship

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india bhopal

Indians protest the Bhopal disaster

A commissioner for a body monitoring the sustainability and ethics of the London 2012 Olympics has resigned over its links with Dow Chemical, the company mixed up in one of the worst corporate related human rights disasters of the 20th century.

Meredith Alexander is quitting the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012. It describes itself as an independent body which “monitors and assures the sustainability of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Ms. Alexander, who is Head of Policy for the charity ActionAid, told BBC’s Newsnight why she was resigning:

“I feel I was part of a lobby which legitimized Dow’s claims that it had no responsibility for Bhopal…This is an iconic case. It’s one of the worst abuses of human rights in my generation and I just could not stand idly by.”

Olympic controversy is nothing new. Remember the corruption scandal surrounding the Salt Lake Olympics in 2002? And the Free Tibet protests that dogged the Olympic torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Games?

With the resignation of Meredith Alexander, the biggest scandal – by far – of the 2012 London Olympics involves major corporate sponsor Dow Chemical. For a massive corporation that mostly produces plastics and poisons, Dow has gotten pretty good press in the last few years. It has been recognized as one of the world’s most gay-friendly companies. It has given over $30,000 to PFLAG’s scholarship program. Its moustachioed CEO Andrew Liveris was named the most influential figure in global chemical markets in 2010, and he’s tight with President Obama – serving on his Export Council and visiting the White House frequently since 2008.

There’s just one problem. In 2001, Dow acquired Union Carbide, a chemical company that ran the pesticide plant that leaked over 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas into the city of Bhopal, India in 1984. Over 20,000 people have been killed by the disaster and today over 100,000 suffer debilitating health problems. Dow and Union Carbide have failed to adequately compensate victims’ families or affected survivors, to clean up the toxic site, or to appear in Indian courts. Understandably, many Indians and activists are not happy with Dow.

After a recent onslaught of protesting and bad PR, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (the LOCOG) announced that Dow’s logo would be not be shown on a controversial wrap used to decorate the main Olympics stadium. (Given the loud opposition, it is hard to believe Dow’s claim that they had chosen to take the decision months ago.) Days later, the Indian Olympic Association urged the International Olympic Committee to terminate Dow’s sponsorship. (Considerable support for India’s position comes from within Vietnam – a country ravaged by Agent Orange manufactured by, you guessed it, Dow.) This seems unlikely after comments from the IOC head, and given that India has taken the threat of an Olympic boycott over the issue off the table.

Yet the protests continue. Many groups inside and outside India would still like to see Dow dropped as a sponsor since its callous attitude towards Bhopal’s victims and survivors strikes many as incompatible with the Olympic spirit of international camaraderie and goodwill. The world and Dow must know that being outstanding with regard to certain human rights does not confer a free pass to ignore others.

Take action with us. Tell the US Olympic Committee not to forget Bhopal Tragedy in India.

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12 thoughts on “London Olympics Faces Public Meltdown For Dow Chemical Sponsorship

  1. after reading the above article I felt disillusioned that a company is able to sponsor a sporting event when compensation for previous 'accidents' have not been honoured.

  2. This comes as no surprise. In fact, it is keeping with most, if not all, corporate ethical breaches. Follow the money.

  3. Thank you for your comments! Please take the action and tell the US Olympic Committee that the Olympics should not accept donations from corporations like Dow Chemical.

  4. after reading the above article I felt disillusioned that a company is able to sponsor a sporting event when compensation for previous ‘accidents’ have not been honoured.

  5. This comes as no surprise. In fact, it is keeping with most, if not all, corporate ethical breaches. Follow the money.

  6. Thank you for your comments! Please take the action and tell the US Olympic Committee that the Olympics should not accept donations from corporations like Dow Chemical.

  7. It is clear that the IOC and Locog did not check on the background of Dow before giving them the contract for the Olymnpic Stadium. If they had they would have found that Dow was one of 35 US Compabnies that manufactured Agent Orange and NAPALM, used with devastating effect on Vietnam for a period of ten-years from 1961.

    Today in Vietnam there are nearly four million suffering from the effects of Agent Orange and it has now gone into the fourth generation, in each of my yearly visits to the country I meet with many of these tragic victims.

    For Dowe to be a sponsor of the Olympic Games is an insult to the millions it has injured, crippled and killed through Agent Orange.

    It is also an insult to the Ideals of the Olympic Games.

  8. It is clear that the IOC and Locog did not check on the background of Dow before giving them the contract for the Olymnpic Stadium. If they had they would have found that Dow was one of 35 US Compabnies that manufactured Agent Orange and NAPALM, used with devastating effect on Vietnam for a period of ten-years from 1961.

    Today in Vietnam there are nearly four million suffering from the effects of Agent Orange and it has now gone into the fourth generation, in each of my yearly visits to the country I meet with many of these tragic victims.

    For Dowe to be a sponsor of the Olympic Games is an insult to the millions it has injured, crippled and killed through Agent Orange.

    It is also an insult to the Ideals of the Olympic Games.

  9. Corporate accountability is about regulating business behavior. In brief, holding corporations accountable for their actions and disciplining their wrong actions. These companies are legislated to enable and facilitate their rules of conduct and its impact on the society (cited from Open Polytechnic, Learning Guide). “Accountability of corporations for their management decisions is manifest by their enabling and public welfare statutes and by public and political reaction to their activities” as stated by Norm Keith in Evolution of Corporate Accountability: From Moral Panic to Corporate Social Responsibility. The question of corporate accountability rises from the corporation’s financial goals and the accountability often lacks when goals are of financial self interest by some leaders of the corporation.
    Corporations can vastly benefit by performing their actions rightfully in respect to the society. They can build up their reputation with the customers, suppliers, and politician and be recognized globally for the rightful efforts and actions. Increasing value has been put on the environment and dignity of individuals. Another benefit is ‘trust” that society builds with the corporation. Trusts and reputation can bring in financial gains as customers realize and understand the contribution towards accountability the corporation is making.
    Disadvantages with corporate accountability I see is time taken to consider all the options. In this modern world every decision requires a quick and efficient way to make judgments. Considering an action from all angles may result in some financial loss to the companies. However, companies can overcome this disadvantage if they have a built-in policy that all decisions have to be ethically made in regards to the community.
    Making a hasty bad decision is by far the worst action a corporation can take. It may seem right at the moment but these decisions in the long run enable companies to gain at the expense of other people or society as a whole (Norm Keith in Evolution of Corporate Accountability: From Moral Panic to Corporate Social Responsibility). Some corporations are able to escape with no corporate accountability and others are not so lucky, such is the case of Union Carbide Corporation. It is claimed that no company or individual were held responsible for the Bhopal disaster.
    Corporate accountability originates from corporation’s organizations itself and is shaped by its leaders. For corporate accountability to be effective it has to be embedded in organization culture. It should be the basis of ethical business decisions. Some Corporations ( such as SAB Miller) now include corporate accountability reports as a part of financial reports.
    If a corporation has failed in corporate accountability, it is often a question of where the culpability lie. As in the above blog ‘Is Dow Chemical Company responsible for the gas Leak in Bhopal in 1984?’ In my opinion, no. Dow Chemical Company bought the business in 2000. Dow Chemical Company is not responsible for the gas leak and thus accountable for the occurred disaster. Union Carbide Corporation was responsible for the gas leak. Often the cause of disaster is poor leadership, miscommunication and unhealthy culture among other things. Disappearance of UCC chairman is a clear indication that individual or groups of individuals were liable for the gas leak. Back to the question of where does the culpability lie, it is only the courts of India and USA who are able to distinguish that UCC as a corporation is liable for the disaster or “the specific corporate agent is responsible for the act.” (Open Polytechnic, Learning guide) UCC did pay $470m to the Indian government which can be seen as retribution and unofficial acknowledgment that the corporation blames itself for the disaster.
    Is International Olympics committee making an ethically correct decision in regard to the contract it has given to Dow Chemical Company? Of course as there are still many grievances about Bhopal disaster, “over 25,000 people have died, and over 100,000 continue to deal with serious health problems” As per above blog. By contracting the making for fabric wrap to Dow Chemical Company, the International Olympic Committee is omitting to acknowledge the suffering of Bhopal survivors, especially taking into account that no corporation or individuals were held accountable for the large scale gas leak in 1984. Dow Chemical Company in my opinion is responsible for rehabilitation programme of the organization, the environment and people of Bhopal. “Prosecuting corporate offenders to achieve accountability first requires a reliable theory of corporate criminal liability. Punishing corporate offenders is only briefly addressed in the sentencing literature. Deterrents have been the theory for sentencing individuals but there has not been an extensive review of this sentencing theory for corporate offenders. In short, there is a compelling need to review the evolution of corporate accountability to address its purpose, social utility and consider new ideas to enhance the morally, legally and socially acceptable behavior of corporations in the new millennium.” By Norm Keith in Evolution of Corporate Accountability: From Moral Panic to Corporate Social Responsibility. Which may well mean the Dow chemical company is responsible for the rehabilitation programme.
    Since the Dow Chemical Company is not taking the responsibility for rehabilitation programme the International Olympics committee has to consider whether they are making an ethical decision by giving the contract Dow Chemical Company; which to me is not. International Olympics Committe and Dow Chemical company have responsibility to people of Bhopal. So let’s make a stand let our voices be heard on behalf of people of Bhopal.

  10. Corporate accountability is about regulating business behavior. In brief, holding corporations accountable for their actions and disciplining their wrong actions. These companies are legislated to enable and facilitate their rules of conduct and its impact on the society (cited from Open Polytechnic, Learning Guide). “Accountability of corporations for their management decisions is manifest by their enabling and public welfare statutes and by public and political reaction to their activities” as stated by Norm Keith in Evolution of Corporate Accountability: From Moral Panic to Corporate Social Responsibility. The question of corporate accountability rises from the corporation’s financial goals and the accountability often lacks when goals are of financial self interest by some leaders of the corporation.
    Corporations can vastly benefit by performing their actions rightfully in respect to the society. They can build up their reputation with the customers, suppliers, and politician and be recognized globally for the rightful efforts and actions. Increasing value has been put on the environment and dignity of individuals. Another benefit is ‘trust” that society builds with the corporation. Trusts and reputation can bring in financial gains as customers realize and understand the contribution towards accountability the corporation is making.
    Disadvantages with corporate accountability I see is time taken to consider all the options. In this modern world every decision requires a quick and efficient way to make judgments. Considering an action from all angles may result in some financial loss to the companies. However, companies can overcome this disadvantage if they have a built-in policy that all decisions have to be ethically made in regards to the community.
    Making a hasty bad decision is by far the worst action a corporation can take. It may seem right at the moment but these decisions in the long run enable companies to gain at the expense of other people or society as a whole (Norm Keith in Evolution of Corporate Accountability: From Moral Panic to Corporate Social Responsibility). Some corporations are able to escape with no corporate accountability and others are not so lucky, such is the case of Union Carbide Corporation. It is claimed that no company or individual were held responsible for the Bhopal disaster.
    Corporate accountability originates from corporation’s organizations itself and is shaped by its leaders. For corporate accountability to be effective it has to be embedded in organization culture. It should be the basis of ethical business decisions. Some Corporations ( such as SAB Miller) now include corporate accountability reports as a part of financial reports.
    If a corporation has failed in corporate accountability, it is often a question of where the culpability lie. As in the above blog ‘Is Dow Chemical Company responsible for the gas Leak in Bhopal in 1984?’ In my opinion, no. Dow Chemical Company bought the business in 2000. Dow Chemical Company is not responsible for the gas leak and thus accountable for the occurred disaster. Union Carbide Corporation was responsible for the gas leak. Often the cause of disaster is poor leadership, miscommunication and unhealthy culture among other things. Disappearance of UCC chairman is a clear indication that individual or groups of individuals were liable for the gas leak. Back to the question of where does the culpability lie, it is only the courts of India and USA who are able to distinguish that UCC as a corporation is liable for the disaster or “the specific corporate agent is responsible for the act.” (Open Polytechnic, Learning guide) UCC did pay $470m to the Indian government which can be seen as retribution and unofficial acknowledgment that the corporation blames itself for the disaster.
    Is International Olympics committee making an ethically correct decision in regard to the contract it has given to Dow Chemical Company? Of course as there are still many grievances about Bhopal disaster, “over 25,000 people have died, and over 100,000 continue to deal with serious health problems” As per above blog. By contracting the making for fabric wrap to Dow Chemical Company, the International Olympic Committee is omitting to acknowledge the suffering of Bhopal survivors, especially taking into account that no corporation or individuals were held accountable for the large scale gas leak in 1984. Dow Chemical Company in my opinion is responsible for rehabilitation programme of the organization, the environment and people of Bhopal. “Prosecuting corporate offenders to achieve accountability first requires a reliable theory of corporate criminal liability. Punishing corporate offenders is only briefly addressed in the sentencing literature. Deterrents have been the theory for sentencing individuals but there has not been an extensive review of this sentencing theory for corporate offenders. In short, there is a compelling need to review the evolution of corporate accountability to address its purpose, social utility and consider new ideas to enhance the morally, legally and socially acceptable behavior of corporations in the new millennium.” By Norm Keith in Evolution of Corporate Accountability: From Moral Panic to Corporate Social Responsibility. Which may well mean the Dow chemical company is responsible for the rehabilitation programme.
    Since the Dow Chemical Company is not taking the responsibility for rehabilitation programme the International Olympics committee has to consider whether they are making an ethical decision by giving the contract Dow Chemical Company; which to me is not. International Olympics Committe and Dow Chemical company have responsibility to people of Bhopal. So let’s make a stand let our voices be heard on behalf of people of Bhopal.

  11. Many of us in the UK are disgusted by the commercialism of these games. A lot of us simply don't want them here, to tell the truth. Nothing against sport but the way these things have been organised is hugely pro big business and decidedly anti-social.

  12. HazMat Experts and Firefighters petition Dow Chemical and Union Pacific for safe rail tank cars transporting gas chlorine. Secondary containment is a necessary improvement that must be implemented. See–PETITION C KIT for First Responders Comments