Open Letter to the UN Environmental Programme

To Eric Falt, Director, UNEP Division of Communications and Public Information
Theodore Oben, Head, UNEP Children and Youth Unit
Dear Mr. Falt and Mr. Oben,
We read about the gathering of Young Environmental Leaders in Bangalore, organized by UNEP and sponsored by Bayer. The objective of the meeting is to discuss the environment and the implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
In our opinion your partnership with Bayer thwarts these aims.
This corporation 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 great number of highly dangerous substances like insecticides, plasticisers, Bisphenol A and phosgene. In the past Bayer was even engaged in the production of PCBs, poison gas, and HIV-tainted blood clotting medication.
Bayer, like any other multinational company, is primarily interested in profits. Bayer´s former CEO, Manfred Schneider, put it this way: “We´re out for profits. This is our job”. And Bayer has a long tradition in trying to “greenwash” its image. The company started dozens of partnerships and sponsorships with medical, environmental or educational organizations. In particular Bayer chooses cooperations in fields where the company is criticized. Bayer has been using these partnerships to deflect criticism by watchdog groups or the media and to use the good image of their partners to present a corporate humanitarian image.
It`s a set-back for efforts to assure environmental protection if corporations like Bayer are allowed to associate themselves with the UN or the United Nations Environmental Programme. Bayer widely uses its involvement with the UN and UNEP to bolster its integrity, for example on the company`s homepage and in numerous advertising brochures. This is an easy and informal way of achieving a positive company image without real-world consequences. To Bayer, supporting UNEP is nothing more than a sheer publicity campaign.
Our group Coalition against BAYER-dangers, based in Germany, has been monitoring the company for 25 years. During this period we have documented hundreds of cases when Bayer´s products or factories harmed people or the environment. For decades we have experienced that Bayer only stopped the production of hazardous products when pressured from the public. For more examples please visit our website or read our article Bayer and the UN Global Compact.
Big corporations are responsible for many environmental and social problems. Big companies reduce costs and increase profits on the public´s expense. Multinationals push for voluntary agreements that hinder the ratification of binding rules to ensure social and environmental standards. Therefore we believe it is not a good idea to partner with multinational companies when pursuing environmental goals.
Accepting money leads to dependency. We fear that UNEP and the Young Environmental Leaders will be less open to make the role of corporations a subject of discussion when receiving support from Bayer. We 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
Coalition against BAYER-dangers (Germany)
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Advisory Board
Prof. Juergen Junginger, designer, Krefeld,
Prof. Dr. Juergen Rochlitz, chemist, former member of the Bundestag, Burgwald
Wolfram Esche, attorney-at-law, Cologne
Dr. Sigrid Müller, pharmacologist, Bremen
Eva Bulling-Schroeter, former member of the Bundestag, Ingolstadt
Prof. Dr. Anton Schneider, construction biologist, Neubeuern
Dorothee Sölle, theologian, Hamburg (died 2003)
Dr. Janis Schmelzer, historian, Berlin
Dr. Erika Abczynski, pediatrician, Dormagen

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