Global environmental challenges
The Green Gauge: Kimberly-Clark, NCR face pollution charges
Leading this week’s Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies in the news for behavior affecting the environment, are Kimberly-Clark and NCR who are being sued along with seven others for PCB pollution dating back more than 50 years.
Selections of headlines about publicly-traded companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.
The long-lasting risks of environmental pollution were revealed recently, as the U.S. Department of Justice filed a major law suit against Kimberly-Clark, NCR, and nine other companies to pay for continued clean-up and environmental restoration work relating to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) pollution in Wisconsin’s Fox River and Green Bay from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s. Although $300 million has already been paid for clean-up efforts at the site, the Department of Justice claims that $550 million of additional clean-up and $400 million of natural resource restoration work is still required. The lawsuit claims that the companies originally responsible for the pollution have resisted taking full financial responsibility for the clean-up costs as well as the efforts necessary to repair the long-term damage to natural resources that resulted from the pollution.
Chinese authorities sued Zijin Mining for nearly $3 million following the collapse of a tailings dam near a tin mine controlled by the company. In addition to the significant environmental damage caused by the resulting pollution, 28 people are dead or missing as a result of the dam’s collapse. The incident follows another recent pollution incident at one of the company’s gold mines in China in July that killed more than 2,000 fish.
Bayer recently settled with a group of 8 Texas rice farmers for $290,000 for damages suffered as a result of the 2006 contamination of rice by genetically modified seeds that had not been approved for cultivation. The revelations of the contamination led to restrictions on rice imports by Japan and the E.U. as well as a subsequent drop in rice prices. Bayer has lost all of the recent cases in the U.S. related to the incident in the past year, including a $48 judgment in punitive and compensatory damages by an Arkansas jury in April. The recent settlement may indicate a potential change in Bayer’s strategy to begin to settle the more than 6,000 claims by rice farmers against Bayer currently in the court system.
Columbia declared an environmental emergency for several Caribbean beaches after an oil spill of an Ecopetrol pipeline led to the spill of 20,000 gallons of oil into the sea. Although the company blamed the spill on criminals and claimed to have stopped the spill last week, the spill caused oil damage and the death of sea life near the popular tourist resort of Santa Marta. Ecopetrol is currently in the process of purchasing the Ecuador operations of BP together with Talisman Energy for U.S. $1.9 billion.
Autodesk, a leading provider of software solutions for product design, and Granata Design Ltd., a provider of data on materials, recently announced a collaboration to provide a software solution that will allow clients to be able to better understand the environmental impacts of product design. The companies claim that 80 percent of a product’s impact is determined in its design phase, and the collaboration will allow product designers to better understand the environmental impacts of their choices of which materials to include in products.
Hyundai and Honda Motors recently tied for first place in terms of automobile CO2 emissions in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Automaker Rankings, which ranked the eight largest automobile manufacturers in the U.S. Both Honda and Hyundai had an average of 377g of CO2 / mile for their 2008 model years, which was significantly lower than the 429 g / mile average for all 8 manufacturers. Although Honda has placed first in the overall rankings since the ranking began 5 years ago, Hyundai demonstrated the greatest progress over the past 3 years, jumping from 4th to 1st place in Global Warming performance by reducing the average CO2 emissions / mile by 11 percent.
A link to the study is available here.
Photo above: A freight train crosses the Fox River on the south edge of Vernon Marsh Wildlife Area in a view from the town of Mukwonago, Wisconsin June 10, 2008. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson