Skip to main content

Dow, BP, Rio Tinto must jump reputation hurdles at Olympics

<p>Activists are staging protests against what they say is an attempt by the corporate giants to use sponsorship deals at the Olympics to &quot;greenwash&quot; their reputations.</p>

With the Olympics now just a month away, campaigners plan to step up their campaign to publicize what they claim is an attempt by global companies to use the games to "greenwash" their reputations.

Last week there was a "guerilla" performance to protest against BP before a staging of Comedy of Errors at the Camden Roundhouse as part of the Cultural Olympiad, while Drop Dow Now protesters staged a "die-in" at the Olympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Square.

Campaigners say the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog) has refused to meet with them to discuss their concerns. The coalition bringing together protest groups campaigning against Olympic sponsors Dow Chemical, BP and Rio Tinto is chaired by Meredith Alexander. She quit as a commissioner for the London 2012 sustainability watchdog over Dow's $100 million deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its agreement with London organisers to fund the $11 million wrap that will surround the stadium.

Campaigners claim Dow has outstanding liabilities relating to the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India that resulted in the deaths of up to 20,000 people. The IOC, London 2012 organisers and the company argue that Dow bought Union Carbide many years after it divested of its Indian assets and that all claims have been settled by the Indian supreme court.

The three companies have been made the subject of short animated films, with members of the public invited to vote online for the "worst corporate sponsor of the Olympics".

"Rio Tinto is involved in environmental and human rights controversies all over the world, but the pollution is so bad near the mines in Utah where Rio Tinto has extracted the metals for the Olympic medals that local physicians have linked it to premature deaths," said Richard Solly of the London Mining Network. "Trade Union groups from all over the world have also been voting in solidarity with Quebecois workers that Rio Tinto have locked out since last December in a labor dispute."

Earlier this month, it emerged that Rio Tinto had not been subjected to the same audit as other London 2012 sponsors.

Shaun McCarthy, the chairman of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 said: "Locog's procedures say there has to be an audit but they allowed this company to slip through the net, they don't have an audit they haven't been certified and yet the metals have been supplied."

All three companies have defended their business practices and say that they are not only investing in the Olympic movement but using their involvement as a springboard for other worthwhile projects.

BP, for example, ran a mentoring scheme for young people and is attempting to offset the carbon of spectators coming to the Games, providing they register their details.

Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, this month defended the involvement of the IOC's sponsors, saying they were all subjected to an in-depth audit before they were accepted.

"Before accepting a new company, they are vetted in detail by independent advisers," he said. "We look at the record of the company and in the case of Dow we asked their view on Bhopal. We knew about it and we thought Dow was not responsible."

Asked whether there was anything that made the company unfit to be involved with the Olympic movement, he said: "Nothing that makes them unfit? No, absolutely nothing. Look at BP. They had an oil spill. But they took corrective measures and did everything they had to do."

This article originally appeared at and is reprinted with permission.

More on this topic