Still the Worst?
May 10, 2003 3:15 PM   Subscribe

10 Worst Corporations for 2002. Is this list still true in May of 2003, or have other corporations superseded this line-up? Was it even a good list of the best of the worst back in December of 2002? (From Multinational Monitor.)
posted by Dunvegan (15 comments total)
Blaming Caterpillar for what the IDF does is insanely idiotic. They make tools. Tools are useful for many purposes, some malign, but mostly beneficial. If somebody bought a ball-peen hammer and attacked you with it, should you blame stanley for making the hammer? Preposterous.

I stopped reading at that point because the author is clearly a complete jackass. Anybody that can, with complete candor, suggest that a major construction equipment manufacturer is one of the 10 worst corporations in existence, solely because they won't involve politics in their sales choices, deserves nothing but contempt.
posted by Mark Doner at 5:39 PM on May 10, 2003

Ooh, let's take another biased stab at Israel and blame a random company for manufacturing and selling "house demolishers," excuse me, bulldozers. On the subject of Israel, the article assumes yet another hackneyed single-sided stance. On the subject of Caterpillar -- the bulldozer manufacturer -- their logic is both hypocritical and just plain asinine. Why, clearly, the paramount step to Middle Eastern peace is to stop the sale of bulldozers to Israel. Cutting off research ties to Israeli universities is also an excellent idea. Cutting off funds to Palestinian terrorists doesn't seem very high on the list of priorities.

The way this article is written robs it of all credibility.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:41 PM on May 10, 2003

Caterpillar is a subsidiary of the RAMJAC corporation, which did not make the list.
posted by crunchburger at 6:02 PM on May 10, 2003

The authors should have settled for 8, as between the Caterpillar and the Proctor and Gamble choices they do much to discredit themselves. Pity, because they make solid points elsewhere, but now nobody but the choir is going to give them any credit.

The part about Proctor and Gamble is almost as irrational as the bit about Caterpillar. They start by explaining in perfectly simple terms that the supply of coffee beans is drastically exceeding demand, then somehow swing around and lay blame on P&G. The only quote they attribute to P&G actually sounds pretty responsible; talking about crop diversification and other perfectly sensible supply vs. demand approaches, but the article suggests that they're villains for not supporting price and supply controls that would include the destruction of 5 million bags. In other words, if it's villainous not to be a complete idiot, P&G are villains.

I'm no free-market proselyte and I'm leery of the power of multinationals, but these guys have no case here. None. This article suggests that farmers who slash-and-burn rain forests to create coffee plantations that aren't needed should be propped up with government and charitable dollars, to be spent on destroying crops to prop up prices. Oh yeah, that's a big win. Let's all just dig deep and underwrite activity that manages to be both economically nonviable and environmentally irresponsible, shall we? Talk about win-win. P&G may be villains somehow, somewhere, but this sure doesn't make the case.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:23 PM on May 10, 2003

George, coffee prices are at their lowest in some twenty-odd years. The coffee farmers are starving by the prices they're being offered.

If there are forests being slashed-and-burned to make plantations, those plantations are being run by megacorporations using tonnes of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. There aren't any traditional coffee farmers on those plantations.

Buy Fair Trade Coffee and Chocolate. It does make a real difference. They're being paid a living wage, they're generally using organic or traditional low-impact farming methods, and there isn't any child-slavery involved.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:44 PM on May 10, 2003

Add Shell to the list with Caterpillar and Proctor & Gamble as companies for which this article's indictments do not make the cut. If anything, this article is a good lesson in the use of weasel words.
posted by mischief at 7:59 PM on May 10, 2003

The coffee deal is bullshit. The solution to a supply/demand imbalance is not to brow beat market participants into paying more something they already don't want. That's exactly what's going on. The article admits there's an oversupply, which means that people are growing coffee nobody wants to buy. Solution? Charge more! Brilliant!
posted by NortonDC at 8:19 PM on May 10, 2003

Actually, there is a very real problem in the Coffee industry right now, caused by the combination of P&G, Nestle et al and vietnamese coffee, but the article here completely misunderstands the problem. It's well worth reading this piece from CoffeeGeek that explains the issue. Basically, Nestle and co are taking extremely substandard coffee from Vietnam, rinsing out the burnt-rubber taste with chemicals, adding flavouring and selling it to unsuspecting consumers at a premium.
posted by pascal at 9:01 PM on May 10, 2003

Thanks for the link, pascal. One wishes the FPP article had bothered to make the case properly. I do buy fair-trade coffee on occasion, but I do it in the same vein as whenI donate to soup kitchens, as an infinitesimal palliative gesture, never kidding myself that it's solving the real problem. But if the right thing is not to buy processed crap from the big guys, I suppose I'm doing the right thing there as well.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:27 PM on May 10, 2003

Basically, Nestle and co are taking extremely substandard coffee from Vietnam, rinsing out the burnt-rubber taste with chemicals, adding flavouring and selling it to unsuspecting consumers at a premium.

Indeed. Of course, if someone is buying coffee from Nestle (in fact, if they're buying anything from Nestle) then they should know that what they're getting is second (or third or fifth) rate garbage that is not truly suitable for convicted serial killers. But people (especially in Europe) seem to love their Nescafe and their (blasphemous) cappucino-from-a-packet and can't seem to be convinced that they can make their own, good coffee for much less per cup pricewise (even if they buy fair trade product) and without a lot of hassle.

The coffee issue is truly a hearts-and-minds kind of thing, because so many people have bought into the mystique which is sold by Nestle, et al (including, but not nearly to such a large degree P&G) and Starbucks et al. The way to turn this around isn't to scathe P&G (of all companies), it's to put a French (Freedom?) press in every home.

(So says she who sipped a Starbucks Frappucino™ this very morning.)

In any case, this article not only plays fast and loose with facts and blame, it's devastatingly bad writing to boot. If wishes to be taken seriously, they need to get a grasp on reality, drop the buzzlanguage and the cloying passive language, employed so relentlessly that normal English syntax is thrown to the wind when needed to avoid a direct subject-and-verb construction. Blech.
posted by Dreama at 9:31 AM on May 11, 2003

French press? Nay! Buy a Starbucks Barista espresso machine next time they're on sale cheap. It's actually an Estro in disguise, so it's a decent little machine at an astonishingly good price. With care, it can pull very nice shots.

A good reason to buy FT Coffee: it is, on the whole, better. Fewer nasty pesticides/herbicides/etc used in the growing, most will be shade-grown, etc. It isn't the industrialized crap that most other coffees are.

And it really does make a difference. Some real, living farmer does benefit by your choice.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:51 AM on May 11, 2003

<hijack> Ah, but can I use a Starbucks Barista machine (not that I would, my only reason for going there is my addiction to the caramel frap, aka a coffee milkshake for grownups) wherever I have access to boiling water? Can it deliver sweet caffeinated goodness during a power outage? While camping? No? Well then, I stand by my demand. French presses for all. </hijack>
posted by Dreama at 10:03 AM on May 11, 2003

All right, all right! I'll switch to free trade coffee. (Thanks for the moral motivation.)
posted by win_k at 10:25 AM on May 11, 2003

My God, these people need to get a life. Drivel such as this makes me want go out and buy products from and invest in each of these supposedly evil corporations. The caterpillar choice in particular really shows their lack of thought. If you want to change someone else's mind, do not forget to use your own. To buy into this tripe you have got to be involved in some sort of massive, blind, hate any aspect of establishment, circle jerk. They may have something intelligent to say on something else, but letting this crap through the BS filter pretty much ruins their chances at an audience even with those who are sympathetic to their cause.
posted by caddis at 3:06 PM on May 11, 2003

The argument against Caterpillar seems quite simple, if this is indeed a part of their code of conduct:
'The Sustain activists are demanding that Caterpillar uphold its own code of conduct by halting sales to the Israeli Defense Forces until civilian home demolitions cease.
The Caterpillar code states: "As a global company we can use our strength and resources to improve, and in some cases rebuild, the lives of our neighbors around the world."
Whether or not you think this is a breach of the code, or that the selling of machines to Isreal for this purpose is legitimate is another matter.
Military aid is usually about putting money in your mates pockets though, so no suprises there. /snark
I haven't been multinational watching this year, but Esso (rather than Shell) and Jarvis are always (un)popular in the UK.
posted by asok at 3:39 PM on May 12, 2003

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