It isn't that history repeats itself, it's that some things never change. In the 1987 film "Wall Street," Gordon Gekko famously remarked, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works." The film may now be seen as a period piece from an especially cutthroat period in American business, but the philosophy it expresses is thoroughly up-to-date. Plenty of corporations -- perhaps more today than ever before -- put their bottom lines above almost everything else, including human decency.
That's why I'm so grateful for the watchdogs at Ralph Nader's Multinational Monitor, who have released their annual report of the 10 worst corporate citizens of the year just ended. This year's list, dubbed "Corporations Behaving Badly: The 10 Worst Corporations of 2001," features some familiar names: ExxonMobil (Esso), Enron, and Philip Morris, to name a few.
The list is of special interest to me because I attempted to publish last year's list in my book "Take It Personally." The chapter where the list was to have appeared was ultimately published, but with the text blurred and the word "Censored" emblazoned in large red letters across those pages. The publishers feared (and probably rightly) that the deep-pocketed corporations we listed would come after us for airing their dirty laundry.
This year, the "winners" (in alphabetical order) are: Abbott Laboratories, Argenbright Security, Bayer AG, Coca-Cola, Enron, ExxonMobil, Philip Morris, Sara Lee, Southern Company, and Wal-Mart.
I especially applaud Multinational Monitor's choice of ExxonMobil, selected for its ongoing campaign to subvert efforts like the Kyoto Protocol to combat global warming. Earlier this week, I mentioned that The Body Shop, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and People & Planet have banded together to launch a global boycott of ExxonMobil (known as
Esso in Europe) because of those same policies. Stop Esso!
Do you know of a corporation that deserves to be singled out, but isn't on this year's "10 Worst" list? Let me know and we'll check it out.