Multinational Monitor

JUL/AUG 2008
VOL 30 No. 1


No Escape: Marketing to Kids in the Digital Age
by Jeff Chester and Kathryn Montgomery

The Youngest Market: Baby Food Peddlers Undermine Breastfeeding
by Annelies Allain and Joo Kean

Intoxicating Brands: Alcohol Advertising and Youth
by David Jernigan

How Things Work: The FTC's Revolving Door
by Robert Weissman

Fighting Demons: Addressing the Perils of Financial Innovation
by Richard Bookstaber


Commercializing Childhood: The Corporate Takeover of Kids' Lives
an interview with Susan Linn

Pill Pushers: Pharmaceutical Marketing in an Overmedicated Nation
an interview with Melody Petersen

Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping
an interview with Bill Talen

The Debt Creators: Shady Lending, Misleading Marketing and Hard Times
an interview with José García


Letters to the Editor

Behind the Lines

Marketing Mania, Commercial Colonization

The Front
Freedom Flows in South Africa | Development and the Desert

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Greed At a Glance

Commercial Alert

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

Ecuador’s Mining Halt

Ecuador’s mining industry came to a grinding halt in April, when the Ecuadorian Constitutional Assembly passed a Mining Mandate canceling nearly all existing mining concessions

The Mandate recalls all concessions for which no consultation took place with nearby communities or for which no environmental impact study was undertaken. It also canceled concessions that were granted in “natural protected areas” or which may affect water supplies. These, along with other requirements, resulted in the cancellation of nearly 90 percent of the concessions.

“We celebrate this truly amazing victory of right over might and believe that it will lead to an Ecuador free of large- and medium-scale metal mining in the near future,” says Carlos Zorilla, of DECOIN (Defense and Ecological Conservation of Intag), an environmental group that has heavily campaigned against mining in Ecuador.

The Mandate was passed to give the Ecuadorian government time to write new mining legislation, which will include a national mining company, higher royalties and more stringent environmental laws.

Representatives from several mining companies met with Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, to discuss Ecuador’s future mining laws. “The companies welcomed President Correa’s repeated statements that responsible mining will go ahead in Ecuador,” said the Toronto-based Iamgold Corporation, one of the mining companies that met with Correa, in a written statement.    

John Haigh, manager of investor relations for the Lakewood, Colorado-based Ascendant Copper, which lost all of its concessions, says of the Mandate, “From my standpoint, it’s very discouraging.”

“You’ve got a country that is very pro-environment,” he says. “They don’t want to have any mining, they don’t want to have any large open pits, they don’t want to have any small open pits.” Haigh says because of the Mandate, Ascendant has had to fire all of its local workers. “The country itself is not going to do a damn thing to help mining,” Haigh says. “We’ll have to spend that $100 million in Arizona or New Mexico and not Ecuador.”

Canada’s Carbon Threat

Logging in Canada’s Boreal Forest isn’t just destroying local ecosystems, it is also imperiling the planet, according to an April report by Greenpeace.

“Logging is making global warming worse,” says Christy Ferguson, a forests campaigner for Greenpeace Canada and co-author of the report.

The Boreal Forest, which stretches across northern Canada from the Yukon Territory in the west to Newfoundland and Labrador in the east, stores about 186 billion tons of carbon — the equivalent of 27 years of carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels worldwide, according the report. With the loss of trees, this carbon, most of which is stored in the soil, is released into the atmosphere.

Logging will also “degrade the forest in a way that will make it more vulnerable to global warming impacts,” says Ferguson, in turn making more emissions likely.

“Research shows that when the forest is degraded ... massive amounts of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, and the forest becomes more vulnerable to global warming impacts like fires and insect outbreaks,” states the report. “In many cases, these impacts cause even more greenhouse gases to be released, driving a vicious circle in which global warming degrades the Boreal Forest, and Boreal Forest degradation advances global warming. If left unchecked, this could culminate in a catastrophic release of greenhouse gases known as ‘the carbon bomb.’”

Currently, Canadian legislation only protects 8.1 percent of the Boreal Forest from industrial development; 45 percent is under license to logging companies. Greenpeace is calling for a moratorium on all industrial development of the forest.       “If we continue logging at the current rate, we’re going to see even more and worse fires, we’re going to see more and worse insect outbreaks, and that means more and worse emissions,” Ferguson says.

“We certainly agree with the concept that the Boreal is in danger,” says Andrew Casey, spokesperson for the Forest Products Association of Canada, which represents wood, pulp and paper producers. “But there’s no science to show it is logging in the Boreal” that causes global warming. Casey notes that if logging is stopped or reduced in the Boreal, the demand for wood products will be shifted to more endangered forests, such as the Amazon. “We have to look at the Boreal in a global context,” he says.

Greenpeace’s recommendation is based on the successful outcome of negotiations over the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. After a moratorium on logging there, government, industry and environmental groups negotiated a long-term agreement which included permanently protected areas and logging regulations to maintain the ecological integrity of the area.

While the Canadian government and logging industry aren’t supportive of Greenpeace’s call for a moratorium on logging in the Boreal Forest, Ferguson says, “The debate has gotten hotter, which is a step toward ultimate resolution.”

Safer Cosmetics at CVS

The largest U.S. drug store chain says it will move to take toxics out of the cosmetics it sells. In a move welcomed by health and environmental groups, CVS Pharmacy announced in May a new cosmetics safety policy, committing the company to “developing action plans to replace ingredients of concern [potentially dangerous chemicals] in our branded and private label products” and “prompting similar action by our manufacturer partners.”

Having the largest drug store in the United States adopt a “safe cosmetics policy that commits them to removing chemicals linked to health harms from their products and replace them with safer alternatives” is a major step in cleaning up the cosmetics industry, says Lisa Archer, national coordinator for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of health and environmental groups. The Campaign, alongside Boston Common Asset Management, a social investment firm, urged the policy change at CVS.

CVS’s move follows the high-end grocery chain Whole Foods’ announcement in February that it will now screen all personal care products on its shelves for 250 different harmful chemicals and issue a “Premium Body Care” seal for products meeting a set of criteria for safety, efficacy, environmental impact and labeling.

“The Whole Foods standard is better in terms of actually naming chemicals they don’t want on their shelves,” Archer says. “But Whole Foods has a smaller market share and we hope we can move some of the bigger retailers to make similar moves. Retailers really have the power to shift the market in a faster manner than just the [cosmetic] companies working alone.”

People in the United States use 12 personal care products a day on average, which expose them to 126 unique chemical ingredients, according to Archer. Many of the ingredients currently used in personal care products are known or thought to be carcinogens or endocrine disruptors (affecting the hormonal system, with potentially severe reproductive and other health effects), or to cause birth defects.

Not Ship Shape

The world’s shipping industry sailed into murky waters in February, after a leaked United Nations study showed that the amount of climate-changing carbon emissions produced by shipping is almost three times higher than previously believed. The report also showed that sulfur and soot emissions from shipping, which cause acid rain, lung cancer and respiratory problems, will rise more than 30 percent by 2020.

The shipping industry is exempt from many international environmental regulations and protocols, but critics are now clamoring for more stringent standards and oversight of the industry’s carbon emissions.

Previous estimates by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put carbon emissions from shipping at 400 million tons. However, the new study, leaked to the UK-based Guardian, estimates that annual carbon emissions from the world’s merchant fleet have reached 1.12 billion tons, which accounts for close to 4.5 percent of all global carbon emissions. By comparison, emissions from the aviation industry total about 650 million tons of carbon, or about 2 percent of global carbon emissions.

Shipping traffic is on the rise due to increased global trade. The leaked report projected that, left unchecked, carbon emissions from shipping will rise by another 30 percent by the year 2020, making them one of the largest single sources of carbon dioxide emissions after cars, housing, agriculture and industry.

In April, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) approved some new environmental regulations relating to sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions, but no binding agreements were made concerning carbon emissions. However, several proposals were discussed and a greenhouse gas emissions working group convened in Norway in June.

Aiding Labor Suppression

If the Mexican police are going to attack striking workers, U.S. taxpayers shouldn’t help, the United Steelworkers (USW) told the U.S. Congress in February.

In January, Mexican federal police and soldiers fired tear gas and pellet guns at striking miners at the Cananea mine, a Grupo Mexico copper mine in Sonora, Mexico, and the site of frequent worker strife [see Multinational Monitor article “Mexican Miners Rise Up: The Explosive Dispute Over Privatization,” July/Aug 2006]. Ten workers were injured. Grupo Mexico could not be reached for comment.

USW wrote in a February letter that these actions should disqualify Mexican security forces from U.S. assistance. The union asked the U.S. Congress to withhold a $1.4 billion funding package for Mexico’s security forces until hearings are held to investigate Mexico’s actions during the Sonora strike and others.

“The attack on the Cananea miners is just the most recent in a series of repressive actions by the Mexican government,” wrote USW International President Leo Gerard in a January letter to the late Representative Tom Lantos, then-chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Representative David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “The CalderF3n administration’s flagrant violations of workers’ fundamental rights to organize and bargain, and its continuing use of security forces to assault unarmed workers, raises serious questions about the desirability of providing Mexico with additional security funding.”

The funding package, called the Merida Initiative, allocates $1.4 billion to Mexico over three years to “combat the threats of drug trafficking, transnational crime and terrorism in the Western Hemisphere,” according to the U.S. State Department. Congress has yet to approve the initiative.

“Mexico cannot be allowed to violate workers’ human rights with impunity under the pretense of securing borders and combating narco-trafficking,” wrote Gerard.

— Jennifer Wedekind

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