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by Farris Wahbeh
Saturday, Dec. 07, 2002 at 3:20 PM
Dow Chemical's excuse for not being able to acknowledge their reprehensive actions in Bhopal. In short, the company fears creating precedence for other major companies and their refusal to jeopardize their stockholders.
I somehow mysteriously received via e-mail a press release issued by Dow Chemical regarding Bhopal. In the release, the corporation refuses to acknowledge their responsibility because it would cost their shareholders "billions of dollars". And, furtermore, cost the company millions of dollars for "clean-up and compensation". What's more, Dow dosen't want to set a precedent in regards to their responsibility in Bhopal in fear that other industry giants, (BP, Shell, et.al.), might come under fire. I have copied the text here from Dow's email as I received it
December 3, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DOW ADDRESSES BHOPAL OUTRAGE, EXPLAINS POSITION
Company responds to activist concerns with concrete action points
In response to growing public outrage over its handling of the Bhopal
disaster's legacy, Dow Chemical (http://www.dow-chemical.com) has
issued a statement explaining why it is unable to more actively
address the problem.
"We are being portrayed as a heartless giant which doesn't care about
the 20,000 lives lost due to Bhopal over the years," said Dow
President and CEO Michael D. Parker. "But this just isn't true. Many
individuals within Dow feel tremendous sorrow about the Bhopal
disaster, and many individuals within Dow would like the corporation
to admit its responsibility, so that the public can then decide on the
best course of action, as is appropriate in any democracy.
"Unfortunately, we have responsibilities to our shareholders and our
industry colleagues that make action on Bhopal impossible. And being
clear about this has been a very big step."
On December 3, 1984, Union Carbide--now part of Dow--accidentally
killed 5,000 residents of Bhopal, India, when its pesticide plant
sprung a leak. It abandoned the plant without cleaning it up, and
since then, an estimated 15,000 more people have died from
complications, most resulting from chemicals released into the
Although legal investigations have consistently pinpointed Union
Carbide as culprit, both Union Carbide and Dow have had to publicly
deny these findings. After the accident, Union Carbide compensated
victims' families between US0 and US0 per victim.
"We understand the anger and hurt," said Dow Spokesperson Bob Questra.
"But Dow does not and cannot acknowledge responsibility. If we did,
not only would we be required to expend many billions of dollars on
cleanup and compensation--much worse, the public could then point to
Dow as a precedent in other big cases. 'They took responsibility; why
can't you?' Amoco, BP, Shell, and Exxon all have ongoing problems that
would just get much worse. We are unable to set this precedent for
ourselves and the industry, much as we would like to see the issue
resolved in a humane and satisfying way."
Shareholders reacted to the Dow statement with enthusiasm. "I'm happy
that Dow is being clear about its aims," said Panaline Boneril, who
owns 10,000 shares, "because Bhopal is a recurrent problem that's
clogging our value chain and ultimately keeping the share price from
expressing its full potential. Although a real solution is not
immediately possible because of Dow's commitments to the larger
industry issues, there is new hope in management's exceptional new
clarity on the matter."
"It's a slow process," said Questra. "We must learn bit by bit to meet
this challenge head-on. For now, this means acknowledging that much as
it pains us, our prime responsibilities are to the people who own Dow
shares, and to the industry as a whole. We simply cannot do anything
at this moment for the people of Bhopal."
Dow Chemical is a chemical products and services company devoted to
bringing its customers a wide range of chemicals. It furnishes
solutions for the agriculture, electronics, manufacturing, and oil and
gas industries, including well-known products like Styrofoam, DDT, and
Agent Orange, as well as lesser-known brands like Inspire, Retain,
Eliminator, Quash, and Woodstalk. For more on the Bhopal catastrophe,
please visit Dow at http://www.dow-chemical.com/.
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