Blame aside, help Ecuador’s oil damage victims – former ad man

November 16, 2009
Doing good should be good business.


At least that’s how Richie Goldman, a former Men’s Wearhouse executive/ad man turned motivational book writer, believes Chevron should approach the environmental damage in Ecuador that has resulted from decades of oil extraction. Chevron is fighting a claim of up to $27 billion for rainforest pollution in a court in Ecuador, where the oil major insists the deck is stacked against it.


Goldman, who grew up in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town, worries the 16-year case against Texaco (bought by Chevron in 2001) is distracting everyone from the suffering of those living with the pollution, so he founded a group to raise both awareness and money to help them — right now. “If we wait for a legal outcome, we’re all going to be very old,” he said.


The Ethos Alliance describes itself as a corporate social responsibility platform, with Ecuador the first cause it will champion. It is pushing to raise money for clean water supplies, health clinics and resettlement for indigenous Ecuadoreans affected by oil waste in their water. 


Goldman, who should at least be familiar with the oil biz after nearly three decades at a Houston-based retailer, said he was shocked earlier this year that he had not heard previously about the pollution around the Texaco-founded oil town of Lago Agrio — “Sour Lake” — and felt a better approach was needed. The man who came up with the Men’s Wearhouse tagline “You’ll love the way you look – We guarantee it” insists he is not anti-business and not about pointing fingers; Goldman says he would reach out to Chevron by appealing to the company’s good business sense and, at the very least, its desire to “make this thing go away.” 


Photo credit: Reuters/Lou Dematteis (Ecuadorean oil worker walks by a pool of oil near an waste pit)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Anyone wanting to see a graphic and poignant depiction of the desecration of thousands of square acres of pristine Ecuadorean rainforest and the resulting toxic poisoning of the indigenous people residing there should view an excellent documentary film entitled “Crude” by film maker Joe Berlinger. For more info go to:

Posted by Judith Herguth | Report as abusive

Ok, will someone explain why “blame” is not important when they are talking about such an enormous environmental devastation committed deliberately? Do the people dying of cancer think someone should be blamed? If I lost my child you can bet I would blame someone. Seems like there’s a LOT of blame to be laid. When I google this I learn a lot about it at

Posted by Tek Jansen | Report as abusive

This is Justin with Chevron Corporation and we would welcome a constructive conversation with Mr. Goldman about the humanitarian issues facing the people of the Oriente. There is no question that the people of the region face a series of challenges regarding the health in their communities. However, they are being mislead by the trial lawyers and activists who have brought this lawsuit. In reality, the Government of Ecuador has not fulfilled its obligation to remediate the environmental impacts that it has caused, much less to modernize or even maintain its facilities to mitigate further impact. Nor has the government provided any sewage treatment in the region with raw sewage being discharged directly into streams and rivers used for bathing and drinking water by the local communities. As a result, many rural residents do not have access to potable water and suffer from related health effects.In the 1990’s, Texaco Petroleum spent $40 million remediating its share of the consortium operations. The Government of Ecuador then signed off on this remediation and granted Texaco a full release of liability from any future claims. Since then, Petroecuador has been the sole owner and operator in the former concession area for nearly 20 years and has amassed a deplorable environmental record. While we sympathize with the people of the region, we feel that Mr. Goldman’s humanitarian campaign is misdirected and should be aimed at the Ecuadorian government and its national oil company, not Chevron.

Posted by Chevron_justinh | Report as abusive

The contaminants leaked out of the waste pits because they were badly designed and it IS Texaco’s fault. Turning over the mess to PetroEcuador, does not release Texaco from the responsibility of building a faulty system that caused the contamination. Most of the sites that Texaco supposedly remediated still show illegal levels of toxins. Texaco not only polluted the Amazonian forest but also did a very lousy job cleaning it up or simply pretended to do it.

Posted by Anna | Report as abusive

The humanitarian campaign that Mr. Goldman is spearheading is ultimately directed at the people of Ecuador who continue to suffer. If Chevron sympathizes with the people of the region as its spokesperson claims, then why doesn’t the company act on that sympathy and offer some relief? Even if Chevron is not to blame for the contamination (which is hard to believe at this point)–what would prevent them from helping out those who are less fortunate? There is a moral obligation here and that is what Mr. Goldman is responding to with his non-profit.My friend just launched a new blog to track what’s going on in Ecuador. Check it out:

Posted by Lucy Wilson | Report as abusive

I respect the passion and immediacy of the conversation around this article. Our belief is that there is a humanitarian problem that must be addressed and significant progress can be made promptly around the health and water issues in the near future. The responses to the reuters article illustrate why I started ethos: there is such a focus on blame in this matter that practical, immediate and humanitarian solutions seem left out of the conversation. Thats what we care about. There are plenty of resources on both sides focused on the lawsuit. Our movement’s objective is to focus resources, attention and global expertise on real help that can be delivered now.

Posted by Richie Goldman | Report as abusive

[…] 4. Reuters: Blame Aside, Help Ecuador’s Oil Damaged Victims, Former Ad Man […]

Posted by Monday, November 30th – Day 30, Flying Home « On the Road for Ethos: 30 Days Blog | Report as abusive

[…] 4. Reuters: Blame Aside, Help Ecuador’s Oil Damaged Victims, Former Ad Man […]

Posted by Thursday, November 26th – Quito, Ecuador « On the Road for Ethos: 30 Days Blog | Report as abusive