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KEYCODE BAYER #317
protests on the Opening Ceremony

Please write protest letters to Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme
achim.steiner@unep.org

STOP PARTNERING WITH BAYER

Dear Achim Steiner,

from Aug 26 to Aug 30 UNEP´s third Tunza International Youth Conference will take place in Leverkusen/Germany. It will be hosted and co-organized by the chemical and pharmaceutical company BAYER which has its headquarters in Leverkusen. Together with BAYER´s CEO Werner Wenning you will start off the conference. Talks with representatives of the company and visits to BAYER´s facilities are part of the program.

The Coalition against BAYER Dangers, which has been monitoring BAYER for more than 25 years criticises this cooperation. In our opinion the UNEP should discuss big companies´ responsibility for environmental problems and should press for binding rules at a global level instead of pursuing vague partnerships. BAYER has a long history of giving precedence to profits over human rights and a sound environment. By helping this corporation to greenwash its image you threaten the mission and integrity of the United Nations Environment Programme.

BAYER has fought, through its lobbyists, against most agreements on environmental issues, be it the Kyoto Protocol for the protection of the climate, the new EU laws on chemicals, the phasing out of CFCs or efforts to reduce the use of pesticides. At the same time BAYER produces a large number of highly dangerous substances like plasticisers, Bisphenol A and phosgene. BAYER is the world market leader for pesticides, many of which account for pollution and poisonings all over the world. In the past the company was even engaged in the production of PCBs, poison gas and HIV-tainted blood clotting medication.

The company started dozens of partnerships and sponsorships with medical, environmental or educational organizations - particularly in fields where it is criticised. BAYER has been abusing these partnerships to deflect criticism by watchdog groups or the media and to exploit the good image of their partners to present a corporate humanitarian image, without changing real-world behavior. The involvement with the UN and UNEP for example takes up a lot of space on the company`s website and in numerous advertising brochures.

In the past we saw that UNEP adopted BAYER´s public claims on alleged environmental improvements without taking a look behind the scenes. Two years ago, in a letter to the Coalition against BAYER Dangers, UNEP´s Division of Communications Director Eric Falt stated that “Bayer has reduced its greenhouse gases emissions worldwide by more than 60 per cent since 1992 and has more than fulfilled the targets of the Kyoto Protocol for 2020”. BAYER and UNEP even organized jointly an “International Children’s Painting Competition” on the theme of climate change.

In reality the decline in BAYER´s emissions exists for the most part on paper only. The reduction resulted mainly from the outsourcing of BAYER´s energy supply and from sales of two daughter companies. At the same time the firm lobbied the German government to avoid any binding rules for CO2 reduction. Only a few weeks ago - after a two year campaign by our group and negative reports in the media – BAYER published figures of their total CO2 emissions. Including the output of their energy suppliers these emissions amount to 7.5 million tons of CO2. The “60% reduction” ended up as a fairytale.

The Coalition against BAYER Dangers has documented hundreds of cases when BAYER´s products or factories have harmed people or the environment. The company has only stopped the production of hazardous products when pressured to do so by the public.

We fear that accepting money from corporations leads to dependency and that the UNEP and the Young Environmental Leaders will be less open to discussion of the role of corporations when they receive support from BAYER. We therefore urge you to stop this cooperation.

Awaiting your answer,

Philipp Mimkes, Hubert Ostendorf, Axel Koehler-Schnura, Jan Pehrke, Uwe Friedrich
Board of the Coalition against BAYER-dangers, Germany
Aug 13, 2007

UNEP´s reply (Download: UNEP_reply_to_OpenLetter.pdf)

Letter to the members of the TUNZA Youth Advisory Council

Our group Coalition against BAYER Dangers has been monitoring the company BAYER for more than 25 years. On our website www.CBGnetwork.org dozens of cases when BAYER´s products or factories have harmed people or the environment are documented.

We find the close relation between the UNEP and BAYER highly problematic. BAYER has a long history of giving precedence to profits over a sound environment. The company has fought against most agreements on environmental issues, be it the Kyoto Protocol for the protection of the climate, the new European laws on chemicals or efforts to reduce the use of pesticides. BAYER produces a large number of highly dangerous substances like plasticisers, Bisphenol A and phosgene. The corporation is the world market leader for pesticides, many of which account for pollution and poisonings all over the world.

BAYER started dozens of sponsorships with environmental organizations. The company has been abusing these partnerships to deflect criticism by watchdog groups or the media and to exploit the good image of their partners to present a corporate humanitarian image - without changing real-world behavior. By helping this corporation to “greenwash” its image the mission and integrity of the United Nations Environment Programme is threatened. In our opinion the UNEP should instead discuss big companies´ responsibility for environmental problems and should press for binding rules at a global level.

Please find below a letter we sent to Achim Steiner, UNEP´s Executive Director, in which we demand an end of this cooperation. A detailed analysis of the relation between BAYER and the United Nations is online at: http://www.cbgnetwork.de/271.html

We would be happy to provide more information to you. Also we ask you to discuss the cooperation between UNEP and BAYER during the International Youth Conference. Did the Youth Advisory Council ever question this relation?

Members of our group will come on August 27 to the BayKomm in Leverkusen where the Opening Ceremony will take place. We will be happy to talk to you there. We can also come to Leverkusen during your stay for a meeting with participants. If you send us the E-mail-adresses of other participants we´d be happy to contact them as well.

We´re looking forward to your feedback!

Philipp Mimkes
Coalition against BAYER Dangers

Reply by the Youth Advisory Council

Dear Mr. Mimkes,

Thank you very much for contacting us in regards to your concerns with Bayer's environmental and social records. While we are not experts in Bayer's history, we recognize that many of their practices can be improved.

First of all, let us state that our connection with Bayer as advisors to UNEP has been minimal, and that have been never tasked to report, advise, or work for Bayer directly or indirectly.

In regards to your specific concern with UNEP and Bayer's relationship, we must confess that we are saddened to see UNEP depend on private donors to complete their important task for the global environment. It saddens us to see that governments have reduced UNEP's funding to the point where UNEP must resource to other strategies to meet their financial needs. Thus, the case of UNEP Tunza programme is not an exception. The relationship between Bayer and UNEP was established before our mandate as advisors (which started in 2005). However, in the past, we have discussed the need of having Bayer fund the Tunza Strategy with UNEP officials, and at that point we also agreed that, vis-à-vis the lack of support from governments to support youth activities, Bayer interest in supporting our work was the only feasible way to maintain UNEP's unique commitment to bring youth views to their global work.

As youth advisors to UNEP, we are thankful to Bayer for supporting the Tunza Programme, but that does not mean that we consequently support their way of doing business. While their current efforts to be socially and environmentally responsible are one step, they must significantly boost these efforts for the betterment of humanity. At the upcoming UNEP conference, we plan to express our concerns and suggestions to Bayer, and state that supporting UNEP's work does not exclude them from making significant changes in their corporate practices. After studying the information you have provided us in more depth, we will use it as a reference for our dialogue with Bayer.

Unfortunately, following UNEP privacy policies, we cannot disclose the contact information of other participants. In regards to your interest in meeting in Germany, we are happy to meet with you or other members of your organization if you kindly provide us with a more concrete purpose for such a meeting.

Once again, thank you very much for contacting us and thank you for your important work.

Sincerely,

Juan Hoffmaister, Regional Advisor for North America
Zach Bjørnson, Regional Advisor for North America
Marina Mansilla Hermann, Regional Advisor for Latin America
Alaa Ahmed, Regional Advisor for West Asia
Burhan Buci, Regional Advisor for West Asia
Maurice Odera, Regional Advisor for Africa
Zang Boju, Regional Advisor for Asia
Bjarke Kronborg, Regional Advisor for Europe