Investors Press Dow on Its Liability for Bhopal Disaster Survivors
As Dow Chemical Continues to Deny Legal Responsibility for the Bhopal Disaster Victims,
Investors Call on the Chemical Company to Address the Environmental, Social and Health Concerns of Survivors
BOSTON – Today, Boston Common Asset Management filed a shareholder resolution with Dow Chemical addressing its liability for the Bhopal disaster. The resolution calls on Dow to prepare a report describing the initiatives it has instituted to address the specific health, environmental and social concerns of the Bhopal survivors. Boston Common is also requesting that Dow quantify and analyze the impacts that the Bhopal disaster may reasonably pose to the company, its reputation, its finances, and its expansion in Asia and elsewhere. Boston Common filed the resolution on behalf of its client, the Brethren Benefit Trust, Inc., which holds 4,871 shares of Dow Chemical stock valued at approximately $179,000. The filers are responding to the growing controversy Dow faces because it continues to shirk its accountability to the Bhopal survivors.
The 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal – known as the Hiroshima of the Chemical Industry – has claimed more than 20,000 lives to date and left an estimated 150,000 people chronically ill, 50,000 of whom are too sick to earn a living. “The impact on survivors’ health continues to exceed the most pessimistic predictions. The compensation paid by Union Carbide is less than nine U.S. cents a day per victim – a pathetically inadequate amount, given the economic and health needs of survivors,” says Tim Edwards of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. Dow Chemical assumed liability for the Bhopal plant when it acquired Union Carbide in 2001.
Union Carbide’s $470 million compensation package covered only civil awards for the half million people exposed, leaving unresolved the potential damages for criminal charges and for environmental contamination unrelated to the disaster. “Accused of culpable homicide, Union Carbide is officially a ‘fugitive from justice’, defying orders of the US and Indian courts to face trial in India,” said Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action. “After leaving its factory a ‘global toxic hotspot’, so poisoning Bhopal a second time, Carbide also faces a case in the US courts. The growing movement for corporate accountability will never let this issue rest.”
Gary Cohen of Healthcare Without Harm remarked, “When Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide two years ago, it inherited not only its assets but the liability and karma attached to Carbide’s lack of accountability for the Bhopal chemical disaster. Dow will need to pay this debt or risk serious reputation damage and increasing societal conflict.”
Will Thomas of the Brethren Benefit Trust, Inc. said “We believe that companies with a commitment to customers, employees, communities and the environment will prosper long-term. Corporate social responsibility and accountability are among our top concerns”.
Lauren Compere of Boston Common Asset Management remarked, “Dow Chemical senior executives purport to be committed to sustainable development but they continue to deny any legal or moral responsibility for the victims of the Bhopal disaster. We feel that if Dow continues to do nothing to resolve this issue it may cause serious damage to Dow’s reputation, which may affect its growth prospects in Asia and beyond. Therefore, we are giving shareholders the opportunity to send a strong message to management that Dow should address these issues quickly.”