27 August 2009
August 27, 2009
Dear Non-Profit Day Participant:
We write on behalf of Amazon Watch, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rainforest and advancing the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. As your organization participates in CompassPoint's annual Nonprofit Day, we wish to share important information with you about the involvement of the event's flagship sponsor – Chevron – in serious, ongoing human rights violations in what is being called the worst oil related disaster on the planet.
We believe that Nonprofit Day is an excellent event, full of valuable programming from the various presenting organizations, including your own. However, we believe that as Chevron's very prominent sponsorship of the event publicly associates your name with Chevron's corporate brand and image, you should know what the Chevron brand has come to represent in the Ecuadorian rainforest and beyond. We have relayed our concerns to CompassPoint about the association of its event with a company that has established itself as a serial polluter and human rights abuser of the worst order. We ask that if you share our concerns about this relationship, that you air those concerns to CompassPoint directly as well.
In Ecuador, Chevron is accused of creating an "Amazon Chernobyl" by deliberately dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater and spilling 17 million gallons of crude oil into rivers and soil used by thousands of indigenous people and campesino farmers for their daily livelihood. Chevron's (then Texaco until a 2001 acquisition) use of cheap, outdated and illegal oil extraction technology in the Amazon left rainforest residents suffering from mouth, stomach and uterine cancers, miscarriages and birth defects. Indigenous peoples have lost 95 percent of their territories and are fighting for their cultural survival.
Instead of addressing this environmental catastrophe and humanitarian crisis that continues unabated, Chevron has instead invested hundreds of millions of dollars in lawyers, public relations firms and lobbyists to delay action and justice, some of these efforts have even included attacking Amazon Watch in the media as well as our partners and Goldman Environmental Prize winners Pablo Fajardo and Luis Yanza. Chevron's handling of this issue has drawn the ire of many of its own shareholders. This year, major pension funds – including New York City (representing fire, police, and teachers among others), New York State, and California (CalPERS) – supported a shareholder resolution that addresses this issue. Religious shareholders have pushed the company for years to adopt a human rights policy, only to be rebuked by Chevron's hiring of William Haynes III, infamous for his advocacy of torture techniques as former chief counsel to the Pentagon and Donald Rumsfeld that undermined the Geneva Conventions and led to abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
A series of recent setbacks for the company illustrates that Chevron faces a tremendous financial and public relations liability over its Ecuador legacy, one that threatens to taint organizations associated with the company. Over the last year, an independent court appointed expert slapped Chevron with a $27 billion damage estimate and an award winning documentary on the disaster, Crude, was featured at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and opens in theaters next month (in San Francisco on September 25th).
Chevron currently faces human rights controversies on five continents (in Nigeria, Burma, Ecuador, Iraq, and the city of Richmond, California), and is increasingly out of step with other industry leaders. Your organization represents the best of the Bay Area. We hope that you will join us in using Chevron's association with Nonprofit Day as an opportunity to press the company to do the moral thing in Ecuador. We also hope that you will ask CompassPoint to do the same.
Paul Paz y Miño
Managing Director, Amazon Watch