BP and makers of iPod in line for 'shame' awards

Swiss environmentalists hope this week's prizes will force 'rogue' companies to mend their ways
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The Independent Online

The award for what environmentalists regard as the world's "most evil corporation of the year" will be presented this week to a reluctant winner, with finalists ranging from the manufacturer of your iPod to the troubled oil giant BP.

Six companies face the dubious distinction of winning a Public Eye Award for "the worst corporate offences against human rights and the environment", according to the organisers, Greenpeace Switzerland and the Berne Declaration, a Swiss economic justice campaign group.

The list of shame includes the Taiwanese electronics company Foxconn, which makes iPads, iPhones and iPods for Apple. It is shortlisted for brutal working conditions that reportedly drove at least 18 employees to commit or attempt suicide in 2010.

The Finnish energy company Neste Oil stands accused of biofuel production processes that result in the destruction of vast swaths of rain forest, while South African mining company, AngloGold Ashanti, makes the shortlist over allegations that it contaminates land with poisons, as well claims that people have been tortured in company buildings in Ghana.

Another contender is Axpo, a Swiss energy company nominated for buying uranium from Russia's Mayak reprocessing plant – one of the most radioactively contaminated places on earth – and keeping it secret for years. It is joined by the US tobacco giant Philip Morris, shortlisted for allegedly undermining anti-smoking laws in Uruguay by weakening regulations to have health warnings on cigarette packs.

Completing the "rogue's gallery of corporate villainy" is BP, which is cited over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that "will cause the long term death of large swaths of the ocean".

The companies "have committed 'crimes' in regards to human rights and/or the environment, and in most of the cases it's both", commented Bruno Heinzer, of Greenpeace Switzerland. "We are not just naming and shaming them, we will try to put pressure on the award winners to change their ways," he added.

Tens of thousands of people have voted for the People's Award at publiceye.ch – a website featuring spoof adverts mocking nominated companies. The winners of this and the Global Award (chosen by the organisers) will be revealed this Friday in the street where the World Economic Forum is holding its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Neste Oil dismissed the "misconceptions and false information" yesterday. A spokesman said: "The company strongly opposes any destruction of rainforests and irresponsible use of land, as well as mistreatment of indigenous people" and described the company as following a "very advanced sustainability policy".

AngloGold Ashanti said: "The company seeks always to operate in a socially and environmentally sensitive manner befitting a responsible corporate citizen." It added that the company "has committed to playing its part" in addressing "social and economic legacies" in Ghana.

A Foxconn spokesman said the company is committed to giving its "nearly one million employees in China and around the world a safe and positive einvironment". She added: "We are not perfect but we are committed to doing everything possible to make improvements every day."