Saturday, August 11, 2012

Corporate 'sin-washing' and the London Olympics

Dave Zirin's article on corporate 'sin washing' at the London Olympics exposes the corporate criminality of the major corporate sponsors of the Olympics including Dow Chemicals, BP, McDonald's,  and Coca Cola.
Global corporations like Dow Chemical, Adidas, and McDonald's are paying upwards of $100 million USD to sponsor the 2012 London games and associate themselves with the Olympic brand -- but with their brands already well-established, what do corporations get in exchange for these expensive sponsorship deals?

According to Dave Zirin, sportswriter and columnist for The Nation, the payoff comes through "corporate sin-washing."

"More than any other enterprise, if a company associates themselves with an Olympics, it really creates a positive feeling in the mind of the consumer," he says.

But, "if you look at the main sponsors that the International Olympic Committee has brought on board, you see companies like Dow Chemicals, British Petroleum, McDonald's, Adidas." 

These companies, Zirin tells the Center for Media and Democracy, are some of "the worst corporate criminals" most in the need of an Olympic absolution.
Zirin uses the example of Australian Aboriginal boxer Daniel Hooper to highlight the hypocrisy of the London organizers stance on corporate sponsorship
Zirin's favorite example of odd, corporate-friendly Olympic rules involves Australian boxer Daniel Hooper, who wore a T-shirt with an Australian Aboriginal flag in a recent boxing match to showcase his Aboriginal roots. Hooper could face disciplinary action for making a "political statement" by wearing the shirt, which contains a flag not recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The flag is, however, recognized by the Australian government as an official flag of Australia.

"What's particularly perverse about this is that if Damien Hooper had chosen a shirt that said 'I love British Petroleum' or 'Dow Chemicals is A-OK with me', he would have been allowed to compete." Zirin observes "it's amazing to me that wearing a shirt that says 'Dow Chemicals' is not seen as a political statement, while wearing a recognized flag of your own country is a political statement, because the IOC chooses not to recognize that flag."
 Phil England makes similar points in this piece in Ceasfire where he highlights that the Olympics organisers breached their own guidelines on ethical contracting and ignored concerns and complaints from civil society groups about the corporate sponsors.
The apparent unwillingness to apply any of the Olympics’ supposed ethical principles to the selection of corporate sponsors, brushing aside numerous civil society complaints and campaigns, is certainly one thing that the games can claim to be consistent about.

Why is the London Olympic organising committee (LOCOG) breaching its own Sustainable Sourcing Code? and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) breaching its own Code of Ethics? The former promises to “place a high priority on environmental, social and ethical issues when procuring products and services for the games”, while the latter states that the support of sponsors “must be in a form consistent with the rules of sport and the principles defined in the Olympic Charter” which defines Olympism as “seeking to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles”.

These are serious questions for the respective committees as well as for the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 (CSL) and its standards and ethics expert David Jackman. Because, as with other forms of cultural sponsorship, these company donations aren’t magnanimous acts of philanthropy, but calculated acts of public relations. At their recent AGM, the BP board outlined how they had made a business case internally for their sponsorship of the Olympics, the costed returns for which included building and protecting their brand. Inside the industry this is understood as maintaining the “social license to operate”.

In a very real sense then, the Olympics are colluding in the public relations campaigns of corporations who are engaged in large-scale environmental and human rights abuses, many of which are the subject of legal actions. The IOC and LOCOG are therefore complicit in normalising and cleansing the image of some of our most heinous corporate criminals and CSL is failing to properly address this.

The danger of corporatised health care

More evidence in this Guardian piece of the dangers of allowing corporations and private business to run health services that should be provided by the public sector.
Six people are feared to have suffered irreversible sight loss because of the failings of a privately run clinic at an NHS hospital, raising fresh fears about the government's plans to open up the health service to the commercial sector.
In an unprecedented move, GPs have been advised to consider alternative clinics for their patients because of "worrying concerns" about the services offered at a hospital in Hertfordshire. The surgical clinic, owned by Carillion, a construction firm which was formerly part of Tarmac, has only carried out NHS services at Lister hospital since October but it has already been the subject of criticism from the Care Quality Commission regarding waiting times for a range of services.

The government's drive towards NHS privatisation is leaving patients vulnerable to poor care and support at surgery centres like the one at the Lister hospital. It is potentially the tip of the iceberg in terms of the clinical risk of fragmented health services.

"The Conservatives talk about patient choice, but many patients would have been unaware of the difficulties that they would face by choosing the privately run Surgicentre. These companies see the Health and Social Care Act as a big opportunity to increase their business, but safeguarding patients has to be the number one priority

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Another multinational corporation profits from Australia's abuse of children and young people

The corporate takeover of Australia's human and community services continues.

Another multinational corporation is set to profit from Australia's immigration detention system and its abuse of children and young people.

The Gillard Government has signed a new contract worth $29 million with the US based Maximus Solutions to care for  unaccompanied minors held in Australia's immigration detention gulags. The contract was previously held by Life Without Barriers, an Australian not- for- profit organization.

The figure is the nominal amount of a new contract between the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the US based Maximus Solutions to provide ``care and support'' to teenage asylum-seekers who arrive by boat without a parent or a guardian. 

The extract below is from Paige Taylor's report in the Australian (July 12 2012)
There are currently 168 such teens, mostly boys, living under guard in ``alternative places of detention'' at Darwin airport, on Christmas Island and at a camp in the West Australian northern goldfields town of Leonora.

In the costly context of Australia's immigration detention network, the department finds the $29m contract represents good value.
It is a tiny sliver of the size of the five-year contract between the Immigration Department and Serco for the management of Australia's immigration detention centres on Christmas Island and the mainland; in July last year, that agreement, due to expire in 2014, was valued at $1,032,827,276.
The contract is one of the measures the federal government has in place to meet its obligations towards unaccompanied minors.
``As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Australian government takes its obligations towards unaccompanied minors very seriously,'' the Immigration Department states on its website.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is the legal guardian of all unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Australia; as of last Friday, there were a total of 310 -- almost half, 142, had been placed in community housing under the care of the Red Cross while the rest were still in detention. ``The contract is for care and support services to unaccompanied minors in the detention network,'' a spokesman for the department said yesterday.
``It is also for `independent observer' services on Christmas Island and in mainland Australia.''

Maximus Solutions is a subsidiary of the US based Maximus Inc.

Maximus Inc is a US based multinational corporation that works in the health and human services industries in US, Canada, UK and Australia. It wins Government contracts to provide services previously delivered by Governments or not-for-profit organizations. With a motto Helping Government serve the People Maximus employs 8800 people worldwide.

Maximus is embroiled in controversy wherever it goes. Maximus settled with the US Government over corporate fraud allegations after it (the Government) bought a lawsuit against Maximus for falsifying $30.5 million of Medicare claims.  The Department of Justice statement on the settlement is here.

Maximus was also found to have doubled billed for services in New Jersey.

Maximus makes heavy use of lobbyists and payments to politicians and political parties. Maximus was reputed to have won a $72 million contract after it donated funds to current Presidential candidate Matt Romney when he was Massachusetts Governor.

In the UK Maximus and other other corporate providers have massively increased sanctions imposed on  welfare recipients have developed grassroots campaigns targeting a range of corporations, including Maximus, accusing them of profiteering and exploitation of people on welfare.

Here in Australia journalist Elisabeth Wynhausen has investigated Max Employment's provision of employment support services on behalf of the Australia Government in 84 sites and 71 outreach locations.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Public space in private and corporate hands

This piece from the UK Guardian describes precisely what is happening here in WA.  
 No better example than the $400 m Waterfront redevelopment on Perth's foreshore which is handing over large swathes of prime public riverfront land to private and corporate owners.
What we are seeing is the privatization of public space, the corporate and private takeover of more and more public land and public space and the use of corporate design principles to transform public areas is all part of the corporate takeover of every aspect of our lives.
The Guardian piece continues:
 Over the past decade, large parts of Britain's cities have been redeveloped as privately-owned estates, extending corporate control over some of the country's busiest squares and thoroughfares.
These developments are no longer simply enclosed malls like Westfield in White City or business districts like Broadgate in the City of London – they are spaces open to the sky which appear to be entirely public to casual passers-by.
 It appears from the scale of the change that privatisation of space is now the standard price of redevelopment.
There are, of course, significant benefits to the redevelopments, though some worry that Britain's landscape is being slowly redefined by private ownership in two ways. 

As the Occupy protest highlighted, private owners can refuse right of entry to members of the public, closing off swaths of the city.

Critics also warn that these spaces are being designed on a corporate model which favours ornamental designs – and high levels of footfall for retailers – while community spirit and sustainability are far from a priority.