Monday, 25 February 2008

European business: Greening or greenwashing the economy?

At the 6th European Business Summit in Brussels last week, environment campaigners accused companies involved in the event, titled 'Greening the economy', of being anything but green themselves. With an action and exhibition, Friends of the Earth Europe, Corporate Europe Observatory and Transnational Institute exposed the greenwashing practices of the businesses taking part. The campaigners 'greenwashed' the corporate social responsibility reports of high-profile companies taking part in the summit. The action was designed to expose companies' efforts to attain environmental credentials when in reality their operations have detrimental effects on the environment and local communities worldwide and contribute significantly to global warming.

"If the organisers of the European Business Summit seriously want to discuss a greener economy, why do they invite the most polluting companies and sectors?" asks Paul de Clerck, Corporate Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe. "That an event titled 'Greening the economy' is dominated by dirty laggards instead of green leaders is hypocritical." The European Business Summit (EBS) is an annual high-level conference organised by BUSINESSEUROPE, the lobby organisation of big European companies. During the EBS, business leaders and CEOs meet with European commissioners and top national politicians. This year's event was attended by eight European Commissioners, including Commission president Barroso. The summit provides a floor to some of the most polluting companies in the world and some of the worst performers in their sectors.

Among a host of environmentally dubious companies taking part, sponsoring or attending the summit, the green groups drew particular attention to some for the environmentally harmful impacts of their business behaviour:
* BMW and Volvo: For producing the least fuel efficient cars of the 20 top-selling brands in Europe
* E.on: For owning three of the most polluting power stations in Europe
* Fortis: For investing in controversial companies such as Freeport McMoRan, operator of the world's most polluting gold mine
* Gazprom: For owning the controversial Sakhalin II oil and gas project, which threatens the survival of the last 100 Western Grey Whales
* Lufthansa and KLM: For downplaying the fact that aviation has by far the greatest climate impact of any mode of transport
* Shell: For continuing the climate-polluting practice of gas-flaring in Nigeria and harming the environment and local communities near its refineries around the world.

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