Open Letter to UN Environmental Programme UNEP
(scroll down for UNEP´s answer)
Young environmental leaders meet in Bangalore, India
October 20, 2005
To Eric Falt, Director, UNEP Division of Communications and Public Information
Theodore Oben, Head, UNEP Children and Youth Unit
We read about the gathering of Young Environmental Leaders in Bangalore, organized by UNEP and sponsored by Bayer. The objective of the meeting is to discuss the environment and the implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
In our opinion your partnership with Bayer thwarts these aims.
This corporation has fought, through its lobbyists, against most agreements on environmental issues, be it the Kyoto Protocol for the protection of the climate, the new EU laws on chemicals, the phasing out of CFCs or efforts to reduce the use of pesticides. At the same time Bayer produces a great number of highly dangerous substances like insecticides, plasticisers, Bisphenol A and phosgene. In the past Bayer was even engaged in the production of PCBs, poison gas, and HIV-tainted blood clotting medication.
Bayer, like any other multinational company, is primarily interested in profits. Bayer´s former CEO, Manfred Schneider, put it this way: "We´re out for profits. This is our job". And Bayer has a long tradition in trying to "greenwash" its image. The company started dozens of partnerships and sponsorships with medical, environmental or educational organizations. In particular Bayer chooses cooperations in fields where the company is criticized. Bayer has been using these partnerships to deflect criticism by watchdog groups or the media and to use the good image of their partners to present a corporate humanitarian image.
It`s a set-back for efforts to assure environmental protection if corporations like Bayer are allowed to associate themselves with the UN or the United Nations Environmental Programme. Bayer widely uses its involvement with the UN and UNEP to bolster its integrity, for example on the company`s homepage and in numerous advertising brochures. This is an easy and informal way of achieving a positive company image without real-world consequences. To Bayer, supporting UNEP is nothing more than a sheer publicity campaign.
Our group Coalition against BAYER-dangers, based in Germany, has been monitoring the company for 25 years. During this period we have documented hundreds of cases when Bayer´s products or factories harmed people or the environment. For decades we have experienced that Bayer only stopped the production of hazardous products when pressured from the public (for more examples please visit the English part of our website or read our article Bayer and the UN Global Compact).
Big corporations are responsible for many environmental and social problems. Big companies reduce costs and increase profits on the public´s expense. Multinationals push for voluntary agreements that hinder the ratification of binding rules to ensure social and environmental standards. Therefore we believe it is not a good idea to partner with multinational companies when pursuing environmental goals.
Accepting money leads to dependency. We fear that UNEP and the Young Environmental Leaders will be less open to make the role of corporations a subject of discussion when receiving support from Bayer. We urge you to stop this cooperation.
Awaiting your answer,
Philipp Mimkes, Hubert Ostendorf, Axel Koehler-Schnura, Jan Pehrke, Uwe Friedrich, Board of the Coalition against BAYER-dangers, Germany
Response to the Board of the Coalition Against Bayer-danger, Germany)
Dear Board Members,
I acknowledge, with thanks, receipt of your open letter of 20 October
2005 on UNEP's relationship with Bayer.
Please be informed that we have selected Bayer to help support our
Children and Youth Programme because of their increasing commitment to
environmental values. Like any other private sector company, their past
record may be criticised by some but we are encouraged by their effort to
promote core environmental values.
For instance, according to the 2004 Bayer Sustainable Development
Report, the company supports the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and none of the 12 substances mentioned is currently in the
Bayer portfolio. The report also states that Bayer has reduced its
greenhouse gases emissions worldwide by more than 60 per cent since 1992 and that it has more than fulfilled the targets of the Kyoto Protocol for
2020 - a sign that Bayer supports the goals of the Kyoto Protocol.
As you may know, Bayer is listed in the Climate Leadership Index,
founded by the Carbon Disclosure Project, as being among the best 10 per
cent of the biggest 500 companies worldwide, which helped us to take the
decision to enter into a partnership with them.
In addition, we have found that Bayer is committed to the transfer of
standards, knowledge and technologies and to building capacity in countries
in transition. For example, Bayer is actively taking part in the Strategic
Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM) in cooperation with UNEP, an initiative which was endorsed by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002.
We are satisfied that Bayer has taken positive steps in these areas
and that the company is still working on reinforcing the environmental
aspects of its work. We see our partnership with Bayer as a good
opportunity to not only promote the involvement of young people in
environmental issues but to also encourage Bayer to do more for the
environment. This corresponds to the core of our philosophy to engage
private sector companies and bring about positive change in their
In conclusion, I can also assure you that Bayer is not involved in
any way (and does not wish to be involved) in the definition of the
editorial line of our products and activities for children and youth.
While I understand that your approach is different than ours, I trust
that the above will shed some light on our reasoning for engaging in a
partnership with Bayer.
Director , Division of Communications and Public Information
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
UNEP's cooperation with Bayer / your letter dated Dec. 5
Dear Mr. Falt,
thank you for your answer to our Open Letter regarding UNEP´s relationship with Bayer. We agree that Bayer´s “past record may be criticised but we disagree about how to deal with the crimes the company has committed in the past decades. We insist that the cooperation with UNEP gives Bayer the opportunity to “greenwash their image, thus blocking real environmental progress.
While we accept that your approach is different than ours we are disappointed about the way you are citing Bayer´s company speakers without trying to get to the bottom of their claims.
As an example we would like to discuss Bayer´s activities towards climate protection. In your letter it says “Bayer has reduced its greenhouse gases emissions worldwide by more than 60 per cent. This assertion is repeated in many of Bayer´s publications.
This statement distorts reality. Bayer´s CO2-output belongs to the largest in Europe. The figures given are of little relevance since they don´t include emissions in Bayer´s supply chain. The reduction of the output results to a large extent from the outsourcing of their energy supply. Even the validation statement of Bayer´s Sustainable Development Report 2004 (written by Arthur D. Little, see page 65 of the report) states: “In addition to the energy consumption the KPIs cover also CO2 emissions. This information, however, is of limited relevance since it does not include the external energy supply and the reported reductions are partly resulting from the increased outsourcing of energy production. Figures of the total CO2-emissions are not available from Bayer – surely they would not underline a 60%-decrease.
At the same moment Bayer (as part of the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (BDI)) is lobbying to avoid any binding rules for further CO2-reduction. A BDI-paper leaked to the public some weaks ago wants to freeze emissions of the German industry on the current level. Bayer expressly approves the paper (full text: http://www.duh.de/downlib/ci/BDI-Posi.pdf).
In our opinion UNEP should discuss big companies´ responsibility for environmental problems and press for binding rules on a global level. These goals are not achieved by adopting Bayer´s public claims.
We are looking forward to your answer!
Philipp Mimkes, Hubert Ostendorf, Axel Koehler-Schnura, Jan Pehrke, Uwe Friedrich
Board of the Coalition against BAYER-dangers, Germany