As the World Economic Forum got under way in the Alpine resort of Davos, Switzerland, critics of globalization handed out “Public Eye Awards” for irresponsible corporate behavior.
According to Agence France-Presse, Nestle, oil giant Shell and Dow Chemicals, as well as Wal-Mart and KPMG International, were criticized as being among the worst corporate performers from 20 multinational nominees that have allegedly failed in their responsibilities regarding human rights, labor relations, the environment or taxes.
“They are model cases for all the corporate groups that have excelled in socially and environmentally irresponsible behavior. They reveal the negative impacts of economic globalization,” the organizers of the Public Eye on Davos, said in a statement, AFP reported. The nonprofit groups behind the awards are Berne Declaration and Pro Natura Friends - Friends of the Earth Switzerland.
Protests coincided with the start of the annual World Economic Forum, which the Canadian Press termed a “schmooze-fest” for 2,000 top corporate executives, political leaders and celebrities from around the world. The theme for this year's forum is “Taking Responsibility for Tough Choices.”
Nestle won the “most blatant case of corporate irresponsibility” Public Eye award for its marketing of baby foods along with a labor conflict in which it allegedly fired all the staff at a factory in Colombia, replacing every employee with cheaper labor.
The award for the human rights category went to Dow Chemicals, which was nominated for its role in the Bhopal chemical disaster of 1984. About 50 Greenpeace activists lay on the street, dressed in skeleton suits to bring attention to the 20,000 victims of the world's worst chemical disaster.
Shell, meanwhile, was awarded the environment prize for its “numerous oil spills” in the Delta region of Nigeria, according to Ethical Corporation magazine.
Other award winners include Wal-Mart, which was chosen for allegedly allowing poor working conditions in its African and Asian factories, and the professional services firm KPMG for promoting "agressive tax avoidance."
KPMG, which is based in 148 countries, was nominated by the Tax Justice Network. A spokesman for the campaign said: "Many tax practitioners earn huge fee income from developing tax avoidance strategies and promoting them to corporate clients."
A spokeswoman for KPMG International said that the allegations were "misleading and inaccurate,” according to the Guardian of London. She added: "We have not provided the tax practices at issue for a number of years."