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UK: Olympics ethical sourcing code attacked for choosing Dow

Date: 26 Oct 2011

Bhopal Dow protest

A decision to use Dow Chemical Company to provide fabric wrap for the Olympic games has sparked protests from groups that continue to hold that the company, having bought Union Carbide in 2001, is responsible for the major chemical accident in Bhopal in 1984.

The Indian government settled with Union Carbide in 1989, before Dow bought the company believing it to have dealt with its liabilities. However, campaigners believed that the government had settled far too cheaply, and has continued to treat Dow as morally culpable for the tragedy as the original perpetrators. The Indian government has since filed a fresh demand for $1.1bn.

Amnesty International has said that Dow does not meet the provisions of the Olympics ethical sourcing code that aims to buy products that "are sourced and produced under a set of internationally acceptable environmental, social and ethical guidelines and standards."

The challenge gives the Olympic organisers a difficult dilemma. There is no suggestion that the actual fabric wrap product is not produced in a satisfactory way. In order to assess the objections, they will have to make a ruling as to whether Dow's purchase of Union Carbide does indeed put it into a 'pariah' category - unrelated to the actual production process for the product.

As soon as it starts to change its criteria to being one of judging 'good and bad' companies based on previous controversies, one might be left with a very small field of suppliers for a range of things. But if they, as seems likely, dismiss the campaigners concerns they could end up with exactly the sort of protest profile for the games that the ethical sourcing policy was hopeful of heading off.


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