Friday, October 29, 2010

Pollution black list forces big business to act

Large multinational companies and their local suppliers in China have long been receiving criticism over environmental concerns. Part of the criticism relates to the amount of large-scale toxic pollution being created in China so that consumers in countries like Australia can have cheap goods. One man has been particularly effective in his activism and, as a result, both multinational and Chinese companies are seeking his advice on how to get their names off his list.

Ma Jun originally became aware of China's pollution as a journalist travelling around the country. He says about half of China's water systems, rivers and lakes, are seriously contaminated. His office in southern Beijing's Guang Qu Men district houses an unassuming organisation called the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. His website, which simply publishes information from the Chinese government, has been creating waves around world. Mr Ma lists the names of factories which have been fined or shut down by the Chinese authorities because of pollution. He then prints the names of the international companies that buy products from those suppliers.

Chinese companies seek him out and ask what they have to do to get off his black list. Mr Ma then organises independent auditors to check their emissions. If they have cleaned up their production, he takes them off his website. His list of offenders now numbers more than 68,000 and the embarrassment it is causing multinational companies is forcing them to act.

"This database now is being used by some major companies in the world, like GE, like Nike, like Walmart, as a tool for their supply chain management," he said.
"Taking Walmart as an example - every month they are comparing their list of thousands of suppliers with our list of violators and when they identify polluters that have been openly announced by the Chinese government, what they do is they will call them, they will push them to take corrective actions and eventually make a public disclosure about what went wrong and how they tried to fix their problem," he said.

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