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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/2009-06-18_S...

by Pierre-Henri Lab

Multinationals: Ecologists See Red

Translated Sunday 5 July 2009, by Susan Nicholls

Friends of the Earth want parent companies to take responsibility for the actions of their subsidiaries.

Friends of the Earth have multinational corporations in their sights. Along with several NGOs, such as Peuples Solidaires, the French branch of the association for the protection of the environment has just launched a campaign called “Real profits, artificial accountability”. The initiative asks members of the public to send a petition letter to their local parliamentary representative. The goal of the action is to put pressure on members of parliament to take advantage of an upcoming bill, known as Grenelle 2, to “establish the environmental and social responsibility of the parent companies of French multinational corporations for all of their subsidiaries.”

Friends of the Earth issued a reminder that multinational corporations are often more powerful than the developing countries themselves. “The annual profit of the five largest is equal to the GDP of the 46 poorest countries,” they write. The association denounces using subsidiaries to move manufacture out to countries where “environmental and social legislation is often less restrictive”, then repatriating “the majority of the profits” earned, bleeding the economies of developing countries dry and rendering them incapable of funding health and education policies or public services.

Outraged by this scandal, the campaign aims to put an end to the “impunity” enjoyed by large corporations. Regretfully, “at international level, the texts relating to human rights and the environment are applicable to states, not to companies”, explains the association, which wants head offices to be legally recognized as responsible for the impact of their subsidiaries. “Access to justice will be facilitated for victims in developing countries whose claims for damages will be able to be lodged using the legal system of the host state of the corporation’s head office”, the environmental advocates specified.

In support of their action, the Friends of the Earth recalled the words of the French president at the time when the Grenelle environmental bill was launched. “It is unacceptable that a head office should not be held responsible for the damage to the environment caused by its subsidiaries.” A statement forgotten in record time...

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