Release of NEW critical report on the need for corporate accountability in south africa Issued by groundWork

15 October 2002 - This week an insightful report on corporate accountability in South Africa was formally released by national environmental NGO, groundWork.

The report, entitled: The groundWork Report 2002 – Corporate Accountability in South Africa: The petrochemical industry and air pollution, exposes the need for greater corporate accountability [1] in South Africa.

The report comes at a time when the potentially very harmful impact which large corporations can have on our environment and livelihoods is in the public eye. Just a few of the recent incidents include: the fire aboard the Jolly Rubino (transporting Sasol chemicals) off shore of St Lucia; the commission of enquiry currently investigating the explosive rupture of a methane gas pipeline in Tongaat last year; the poisoning of Richards Bay residents two months ago by fertiliser company Foskor; and the ongoing removal of between 1 million and 2 million litres of petrol leaked from Shell/BP petrol pipelines into the ground beneath homes in the Bluff/Wentworth area.

In all of these cases corporate companies have been implicated in damaging the environment and affecting people’s health, in some instances permanently. In all of these cases the corporations involved, have, to date, been immune from prosecution. In response to ongoing pollution incidents and transgressions by industry, the government has consistently failed to enforce compliance, in terms of the available laws and licenses, through prosecution or effective sanctions, preferring to ‘negotiate’ the terms of non-compliance with the polluters.

At the WSSD, the governments of the world committed themselves to actively promote corporate accountability through the full development and effective implementation of intergovernmental agreements and measures and appropriate national regulations, and to support continuous improvement in corporate practices. The South African government was one of the outspoken proponents of corporate accountability at the WSSD.

Thus, groundWork, is calling for the South African government to put words into action by passing new legislation and revising existing legislation and regulations to ensure that government officials and communities have the necessary power and authority to hold corporates accountable. For example, a review of the current Air Pollution Prevention Act, which stipulates that the maximum fine for polluting industries is just R500, is required. Copies of this report have been sent to President Thabo Mbeki, members of his cabinet as well as selected parliamentarians. The report is also being widely distributed amongst civil society groupings in South Africa and abroad. This report is the first of what will be an annual report published by groundWork which will reflect on the current status of environmental justice in South Africa. For copies of the report, please contact the groundWork office on 033-342 5662 or bathoko@groundwork.org.za. Click here to download a pdf version of the report.

[1] Corporate accountability is concerned with what rules, norms and standards apply to corporate behaviour and who frames them, how that behaviour is monitored and reported and who has access to that information and how compliance is secured.