Amazon Defense Coalition
17 October 2008 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
San Francisco, CA - Amazon Watch and the Amazon Defense Coalition said today their international campaign to hold Chevron accountable for extensive oil contamination in the Ecuadorian rainforest has received the top Business Ethics Network's BENNY Award for outstanding achievement in advancing corporate ethics. The BENNY award is the third major honor awarded because of the campaign's efforts to clean up and remediate the damage to the land and people of Ecuador.
The BENNY Awards - announced today at an annual conference of the Business Ethics Network - recognize outstanding campaigns advocating for corporations to change their behavior and be accountable to their workers, to the communities in which they operate, and to the environment. Amazon Watch and the Amazon Defense Coalition received $15,000 for the First Place BENNY Award.
"We are honored to receive this award on behalf of the Ecuadorians who are fighting to hold Chevron responsible for the destruction of both the environment and human health conditions in the rainforest," said Atossa Soltani, President of Amazon Watch, a nonprofit that works with indigenous and environmental organizations in the Amazon Basin to defend the environment and advance indigenous peoples' rights.
Luis Yanza, President of the Amazon Defense Coalition, said, "This award is a reaffirmation that the affected indigenous and campesino communities here in Ecuador are not alone, and that the truth is on our side. While together we work to shape Chevron into a company that exhibits true ethical business practices, we hope, for our personal health and environment, that that day comes soon." The Amazon Defense Coalition represents dozens of rainforest communities and five indigenous groups that inhabit Ecuador's Northern Amazon region.
For over a decade, Amazon Watch and the Amazon Defense Coalition have supported efforts to force Chevron to clean up oil contamination and improve living conditions for residents in the area where Texaco drilled for oil between 1964 and 1990. Chevron bought Texaco in 2001. Since 1993, the 30,000 residents impacted by the contamination have fought in court to have Texaco and now Chevron take responsibility for the problems and remediate the toxic materials that have contaminated their drinking water and land. Chevron has fought the Ecuadorians with legal strategies to delay a ruling. However, an independent, third-party court expert recently assessed contamination damages at between $7.2 and $16.3 billion, and a final decision on liability is expected in the coming months.
At trial, Chevron has admitted that Texaco dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways and abandoned hundreds of the toxic waste pits, which experts believe have caused dramatic spikes in cancer and other health problems. For years Chevron asserted that Texaco cleaned the area and that the trial was a farce, but the scientific evidence at trial has contradicted the claim.
The BENNY Award represents the third award that the campaign has garnered. Pablo Fajardo, the Ecuadorian lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, won the 2007 CNN Hero Award. Fajardo and Yanza received the prestigious Goldman Foundation Environmental Prize Award earlier this year. The Goldman Award is the world's largest prize honoring grassroots environmentalists.
About Amazon Watch
Amazon Watch's mission is to work with indigenous and environmental organizations in the Amazon Basin to defend the environment and advance indigenous peoples' rights in the face of large-scale industrial development-oil and gas pipelines, power lines, roads, and other mega-projects.
Some of Amazon Watch's programs include: Amazon Communications Team - Equipping Amazonian indigenous groups with media skills and communications tools in order to increase their capacity to defend their lands from destructive mega-projects. Monitoring Mega-Projects - Documenting and disseminating information on the social and environmental impacts of proposed mega-projects in the Amazon basin. Supporting Rainforest Peoples - Mobilizing technical, financial, legal and public relations support for indigenous organizations fighting destructive mega-projects.
About the Amazon Defense Coalition
The Amazon Defense Coalition represents dozens of rainforest communities and five indigenous groups that inhabit Ecuador's Northern Amazon region. The mission of the Coalition is to protect the environment and secure social justice through grass roots organizing, political advocacy, and litigation.
About the Business Ethics Network
The Business Ethics Network is the premier network of campaigning organizations working to change social and environmental corporate practices. BEN, run by Corporate Ethics International based in Portland, Oregon, is a network of marketplace campaigners working to change corporate practices on issues including wages, health care, public health and the environment, treatment of workers, and impacts on local communities.
BEN members include the state PIRGs, American Rights at Work, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First, Friends of the Earth, ForestEthics, Rainforest Action Network, and the International Labor Rights Fund. Members have moved even the biggest of the industry giants - Taco Bell, Philip Morris, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Home Depot - to make significant change. The Business Ethics Network established the BENNY Awards in 2005 to recognize outstanding contributions to the advancement of corporate ethics.