Bosses at the mining and commodities giant Glencore Xstrata today faced a barrage of criticism about its ethical behaviour in the poor countries in which operates.
However, the board, which has also been harshly condemned for having no women on its board, dismissed its critics, with chairman Tony Hayward promising the company would be appointing a woman by the end of the year.
Weekend reports suggested an announcement would be made within the next couple of months. Currently, it is the only FTSE-100 board not to have any women.
At the company’s AGM this morning, a Colombian citizen complained his community had been moved to make way for a mine in which GlencoreXstrata was an investor to a region where it had no water or sustainable agriculture.
Hayward declared the water problems were due to a drought in the whole region. “It is not a consequence of the relocation.”
The anti-corruption NGO Global Witness demanded to know whether the company would launch an inquiry into its dealings with Dan Gertler, the controversial Israeli billionaire operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The NGO claims Gertler has made vast profits acting as a middleman for his friend, the president of the country.
Mr Hayward said there was no need for such an inquiry, declaring it lent money to and worked with Mr Gertler on an “arms length” basis, and stressing that it had been unable at the time to find other partners to invest in what was a high risk part of the world to do business. Glencore lent money to Gertler at high interest rates that other investors were not prepared to pay, he added.
A representative of the Church of England’s investment board congratulated the company on its improvements in environmental sustainability in recent years but asked it to improve its carbon emissions.
A private shareholder said his son had questioned him about the morality of owning Glencore Xstrata shares in the light of the huge amount of negative publicity: “Daddy, I keep reading about this company in the news, what does it do when it goes to the developing countries it operates in?”
Mr Hayward, whose permanent appointment to the chairmanship was announced recently, said GlencoreXstrata invests heavily where it operates: “When we invest we create many very well paid jobs, and each of those supports families of seven or eight people.”
Chief executive Ivan Glasenberg blamed the media for the negative perceptions of the company.