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Shell, Nestlé and Motorola among companies failing to come clean about pollution in China, says Greenpeace home

Air, waterways and soils at risk of pollution as multinationals violate Chinese regulations, says report

Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent, Tuesday 13 October 2009 12.19 BST

Shell, Nestlé and Motorola are among 18 corporations that have failed to come clean about how dirty their operations are in China, according to an investigation by Greenpeace.

The environmental group said the firms, which also included Kraft and Bridgestone and at least 10 Chinese firms, violated state regulations obliging them to promptly announce that the pollution they emitted exceeded permitted levels.

“It is shocking that these companies that are leaders in their respective industries did not even manage to obey the most basic environmental regulation in China,” said Tianjie Ma, senior campaigner for Greenpeace China. “The public has a right to know about what these corporations are discharging in the rivers and lakes around their communities and what risks they face.”

Under an information disclosure policy, companies in China must tell the public within 30 days that they have been reported by environmental protection officers for failing to meet pollution standards. Local governments are also obliged to provide information upon demand by the public.

When the transparency regulation was introduced in May 2008, it was hailed as a vital tool for applying pressure on companies that foul the air, water and soil of China, which faces some of the world’s worst environmental problems. A similar system in the United States helped to reduce pollution by 61% in 20 years, Greenpeace said.

But hopes for a breakthrough have been frustrated by poor implementation. A study last month found that only four out of 113 local governments responded adequately to public requests for information.

The ministry of environmental protection warned that polluters were able to operate in a “black box” of secrecy because they were being protected by local authorities.

Greenpeace found that some Chinese firms, such as Aluminum Corporation of China and Hunan Nonferrous Metals, were discharging hazardous chemicals including lead, cadmium and arsenic.

“Local governments must hold companies accountable for violating regulations – they are virtually allowing these companies to disrespect the central government’s policies,” said Ma.

Ambiguities in the new regulations cause problems, say environmentalists who are pressing the government to more clearly define which enterprises are required to disclose information on which pollutants, and to implement the rules more rigorously.


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