Corporations are bad, greedy and environmentally disastrous. For every Walmart or Monsanto on the hot seat, there are a dozen more corporate behemoths deserving of public scrutiny. It’s not about following the “anti-corporate” trend, and it’s certainly not about blindly hating large companies; it’s about being angry that a relatively small number of organizations are doing serious damage to everyone else for the sake of a little more profit. So don’t waste all your outrage on a couple corporations, there are plenty out there whose name could use a good dragging through the mud. Here are just a few companies that deserve more public outrage.
In addition to contaminating the environment, using child labor and campaigning to get diners to stop drinking water, the soft-drink giant has made a habit of using paramilitary organizations to keep bottling plant workers in line and out of unions. Two union officials from a bottling plant in Guatemala filed a suit in the New York State Supreme Court against Coke in 2010, claiming that they and their families were victims of a sustained campaign of violence and intimidation including attempts on their life and the gang rape of one of their daughters.
The suit was dropped due to lack of evidence, but this was far from an isolated incident. The same tactics were used in Guatemala as far back as the 1970s, and more recently in plants in Colombia and Pakistan. Dozens of union members at Coke bottling plants and their families have been systematically threatened, beaten, kidnapped and murdered across the globe. In a standout case in 1996, a union leader at a bottling plant in Carepa, Colombia was shot dead right in the plant. Thugs later came back and threatened all the employees with the same fate if they didn’t leave the union. They then burned the union office to the ground.
Coca-Cola denies that even the independent bottlers have anything to do with the violence. Yeah, I’m sure a bunch of union-busting freelancers just keep showing up at Coca-Cola bottling plants across the world for the fun of it. Even if there can’t be a direct line drawn from the thugs to Coca-Cola, the bottling companies are at least responsible, and Coke still does business with them. But the fact is that there have been so many of these incidents across the world at Coca-Cola facilities that it is hard to write it off as a coincidence.
The Swiss food and beverage giant has received a great deal of negative publicity in the past, but it has cooled in recent decades. Starting in the 1970s, a boycott of Nestlé was organized across the world in response to the company’s aggressive marketing of baby formula.
The company convinced mothers to use formula instead of more nutritious breast milk. They even dressed sales reps as nurses in order to give the impression that their advice was medically sound. This led to the malnutrition and death of an untold number of infants, mostly in less-developed countries.
Nestlé has seemingly refocused its unethical practices away from causing malnutrition and towards stealing the public water supply. The company is the largest bottled water distributor in the world and is using a variety of methods to obtain water, including brokering loopholes in water protection acts and costly public campaigns. As water supplies dwindle drastically and communities feel the strain, Nestlé continues to siphon the public’s water and sell it back to them at a hefty profit.
Plains All American Pipeline
While oil companies are certainly under a great deal of public scrutiny, the corporation that builds many of the pipelines that the oil is pumped through goes relatively unnoticed. Since we’re talking about a company responsible for pumping oil across North America, I’m sure you can guess their major offense.
Between 2004 and 2007, pipelines owned by Plains All American spilled over 273,000 gallons of oil across four states. The company was also responsible for one of the largest land-based oil spills in history. In 2011, a pipeline owned by Plains All American subsidiary Plains Midstream Canada ruptured, spilling 28,000 barrels (nearly 1.2 million gallons) in Little Buffalo, Alberta. They are facing a disgustingly low fine of $1.5 million, which is less than the value of the oil.
Plains Midstream continued to pollute Alberta when another pipeline, this one 46 years old, ruptured in Jackson Creek in 2012, spilling somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 barrels in the Red Deer River.
You don’t usually get a spot at No. 13 in the Fortune 500 by being completely honest and wholesome. The operator of CVS Pharmacy and Long’s Drugs stores has shown itself to be flexible, to say the least, when it comes to ethical behavior. While shady business seems to be a hallmark of Corporate America, when you’re dealing with people’s health, it crosses the boundary from “bad” to “really bad.”
As far back as the late 1980s, the company was busted for Medicare fraud on a massive scale. But when you’re a gigantic corporation, you don’t go to jail; you just pay hundreds of millions in fines.
In 1998, CVS Caremark was exposed selling customer information to the marketing firm Elensys. The company then used this information to target customers with direct mail ads. It was determined that the law was not broken since Elensys claimed it used the information to “educate” the consumers. Also, it could not be proven that they shared confidential medical records. The company shelled out another $110 million in a in 2001 after it used deceptive business practices when it covertly purchased medical records from the defunct Trio Drugs pharmacy.
In possibly the biggest showcase of the company’s lack of ethics, in 2008, 28 state attorneys general filed a joint suit claiming that CVS Caremark used across the country. This time it was due to the company outright lying to physicians, telling them that their patients could save money by using certain name-brand drugs. This of course was not the case and they were forced to settle for an easily manageable $38 million.
The company has also had their share of problems with FTC for misrepresenting prices as well as the DEA for the facilitation of pill mills.
If there’s one company among the corporations that’s happy about all the negative attention on Monsanto, it’s Syngenta. That’s because the company, which sells seeds and pesticides, is basically Monsanto’s Swiss equivalent. Their exploits include producing dangerous pesticides and illegally introducing genetically modified corn into the market. They have even been in legal battles with Monsanto over patent infringement, if you weren’t convinced of the comparison between the two.
The company of the all corporations recently faced several lawsuits forcing them to remove the herbicide atrazine, which has been shown to be dangerous to fetuses and disrupt normal hormonal function, from contaminated waterways across the United States. In an attempt to buffer the negative publicity, Syngenta led a massive campaign to discredit critics during the lawsuits. They hired private investigators to dig up dirt on the scientists and public officials speaking out against atrazine and had many “independent experts” on the payroll ready to call the court’s actions an “overreaction.”