Chevron, one of the key players in the push to open Burma fast and fully for foreign corporations, holds its annual shareholders’ meeting in San Ramon, California, today. The corporation faces numerous controversies and challenges over human rights and environmental abuses in Burma, Ecuador and the United States.
Shareholders will vote today on a resolution put forth by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and other proponents. The resolution calls on Chevron to disclose its criteria for investing in or withdrawing from high-risk countries. Corporate leadership recommends a vote against this resolution, on the basis that the corporation already has “rigorous policies and processes to identify issues and manage risks.”
Unfortunately, Chevron’s current policies and processes are not sufficient to prevent human rights abuses or to avoid complicity in mass atrocities.
Unlike some other western oil corporations, Chevron already has a foothold in Burma. The corporation holds a stake in the Yadana gas pipeline, which transports natural gas from offshore deposits through Burma to Thailand. The Burmese army provides security for this project. This project, and others like it, significantly contributes to the military regime’s single largest source of revenue—the oil and gas sector. The construction of the pipeline resulted in egregious human rights violations such as forced labor, forced relocations, rape, torture and murder that led to a civil lawsuit in U.S. federal court against Unocal, which became a part of Chevron in 2005.
The Teamsters’ resolution highlights the corporation’s equity in the Yadana gas field and pipeline, and the billions of dollars in revenue the Yadana project generates for the Burmese regime. It notes that the regime is under scrutiny for how it uses the revenue.
Despite these financial, legal, operational and reputational risks, Chevron staff have expressed positive expectations for business prospects in the country. As corporate pressure to lift sanctions on Burma mounted in 2011, Chevron had 41 registered U.S. federal lobbyists and reported spending $9.5 million to lobby Congress. The corporation’s lobbying disclosure forms included 23 references to Burma—second only to Halliburton, which had 29.
Read more about the high risks of corporate operations in Burma in the Conflict Risk Network report “Not Open for Business.”
Conflict Risk Network, a project of United to End Genocide, believes that Chevron and other corporations play a key role in enabling or preventing genocide and mass atrocities. Earlier this year we joined with other investors in posing a series of questions to the corporation in a conference call, which we followed up with a joint letter.
We have not yet received satisfactory responses to these questions, so today the Teamsters will be delivering a statement on behalf of the Conflict Risk Network inside the Chevron annual meeting as they move their resolution forward. We urge Chevron to strengthen due diligence and transparency measures for investment and operation in conflict-affected countries like Burma and Sudan, as proposed in the resolution.
While not armed with a team of lobbyists the size of Chevron’s, investors and other stakeholders expect the corporation to conduct its business in a way that supports peace and stability in countries like Burma, Ecuador, Sudan, and the United States.