Clean Clothes Campaign on 20 Sep 2000 19:17:09 -0000

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<nettime> news on Sony "global offensive" against environmentalists

Provided below is a front page write up today in "Inside EPA" on the
leaked Sony document

Inside EPA Weekly ReportVol.21, no.37-September 15, 2000


Targeting funding, internet activities

Several industry sectors have begun efforts to counteract recent gains by
environmentalists on international and trade issues, ranging from
preemptive attempts to block charitable foundations from funding
environmentalists to the use of internet "intelligence" collection
agencies to track and potentially cripple activists efforts on a global
scale, according to industry officials and confidential industry strategy
documents. Environmentalists say the new initiatives constitute an
unprecedented offensive on their ability to engage in the debate over the
effect of international trade, as well as economic and political
globalization, onthe environment.Industry officials by and large defend
their efforts, saying that the measures are legal and necessary in order
to keep track of the numerous campaigns environmentalists have launched in
the international arena.According to documents obtained by Inside EPA,
Sony Co. this summer prepared an "action plan" for counteracting the
efforts of several domestic and international environmental
groups--including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Silicon Valley
Toxics Coalition.

The plan includes such activities as "pre-funding intervention" and
creates a "detailed monitoring and contact network" to track the
activities of these groups. A copy ofthe strategy is available on our
online document service, IWP Extra. Sony presented the document during a
July technology sector meeting in Brussels on the so-called "WEE"
directive--a European Union proposal that would phase out a raft of toxic
substances in electronics and would require manufacturers to take back
their products for recycling once their useful consumer life is over. The
WEE initiative has been heavily lobbied by several U.S. environmental
groups, but bitterly opposed by mostmultinational electronics firms. The
Sony paper and sources close to the issue say the monitoringnetwork would
employ one of the dozens of new internet "intelligence"agencies --such as
London-based Infonics PLC--that monitor chat rooms, e-mail lists,
electronic bulletin boards, online news services, newsgroups and other
sources of public information for specific data requested by a company or
industry group.

This information includes press releases and news stories, discussions of
particular issues and campaigns, and overall strategy, and is typically
compiled in digest form for subscribers to the service.Although sources
with Infonics were not available for comment, the company has been
involved in international environmental issues in thepast, most notably
when it hired Royal Dutch Shell, Inc. to polish its corporate image after
the Nigerian military executed a local environmentalist who was fighting
to require Shell to address contamination.An industry official says
"pre-funding intervention" means providing groups with industry data prior
to the beginning of their campaigns toensure "they have good information"
about company products and practices. But an observer familiar with
industry efforts says it likely refers to agrowing movement in the
business community to take industry problems withactivists' agendas
directly to donors, charitable foundations and companies thatsponsor the
environmental organizations, in an effort to stall thecampaigns before
they even commence. Sources say the Sony paper only highlights what some
contend is a growing movement in the industry to try and cripple
environmentalists and other activists organizations because of their
demands on trade issues. Sources also point to a new was reportedly set up by the
agribusiness sector in response to last year'sprotests at the World Trade
Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle.

The organizersof the site have collected a list of environmental groups
that took part in the protests, their sponsors, and a list of "myths"
about trade and environment and their rebuttals--including charges that
that global warming is not areal phenomenon and that the government should
not protect certain species from extinction due to human activities.
Environmentalists say the site is a clear attempt to intimidate charitable
foundations into not providing the groups with funds. And while the
groups' site stops short of actually calling for the foundations tohalt
funding for these groups, it does say "we intend to shine a very
brightlight on these groups, and hold them accountable for their
actions."Activists say the efforts could set a dangerous precedent, and
warn of an industry "Big Brother" mentality that seems to be becoming
moreprevalent in the business community. One observer says the Sony
strategy alsoappears to be the first example of a coordinated,
international effort by businessto monitor and counteract activists'
efforts.Several sources say that prior to the Seattle demonstrations, much
of the industry did not view environmentalist working on trade issues as a
threat. But after protesters--led in large part by environmental and labor
groups - successfully shut down the WTO meetings and their subsequent wins
in the realm of public opinion, many in the business community have begun
to take notice and are actively seeking a way to address the situation.

The Clean Clothes Campaign
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