Chemical Industry makes the world go round

Another Summit
Europe, corporations and globalisation, who's in control?
The new economy
The Chemical Industry
What's wrong with lobbying?
Another Europe?
Direct democracy and direct action: a different perspective
Cefics misleading logo

This text exists also in nederlands, deutsch and espanol. We are working on a french version.

This brochure is written as argumentation and background information of an occupation-action during the EU-summit in Brussels, December 2001. A group of people from various countries occupied the building of European Chemical Lobby Cefic.

The Toxic Lobby in Brussels

A brochure published for the occupation of the Cefic, the European lobby organisation for the chemical industry.

Another Summit

Once again it's time for another EU Summit. Once again the ministers from a number of countries come together around the table to discuss 'their' Europe: a Europe in which the power of economic competition is central.

Again thousands of people will gather to demonstrate against this policy. Their demand is that people and the environment is paced at the 'top of the agenda'. Moreover they also want more real direct democracy in Europe instead of the untransparent, distant apparatus that one now sees in Brussels. These engaged people are not content with the 'concerned' discussions by EU ministers on social policies and green plans: a radical change in society is necessary.

Our occupation of the office of Cefic, the lobby group for the European chemical industry, on 12 December aims to make visible the direct link between European business and EU policy. In Europe business calls the shots, and their advice is more than often taken. Our message is that a socially responsible, and therefore sustainable, society can never go together with the present neo-liberal economic system which is based on profit and growth. We look towards a direct democratic alternative, a democracy in which as far as possible, decisions are taken on the local level. This increases the engagement and responsibility of everyone and would include people who now do not feel represented by the technocratic European Commission and the abstract European Parliament.

This brochure supports the above message. The problems are analysed briefly and our arguments against the European Union and the chemical lobby are outlined.

Hopefully you will agree with us, and you will get involved with direct actions for a better world!

Europe, corporations and globalisation, who's in control?

The movement for a globalisation from below finds itself before another summit. Although we have had some successes and have managed to catch the attention of the media, we'll always have to keep thinking about strategies and tactics. Our 'democratic' leaders of government are engaging in 'dialogue' behind impressive fences and incredible amounts of the so called defenders of democracy, the police. How can we break down their legitimacy even more then they are doing it themselves, by closing themselves off from the public?

Shutting down the summit is a very strong action, showing that the decisions they make about our life and our environment are not made in our name. Yet we cannot always get to the summit, therefore we also have to see that the summit itself is not the only centre of undemocratic elitist politics. In Brussels, an enormous amount of industrial lobby groups are active to push their interests. Lobby groups like the ERT and the CEFIC have had a determining influence on forming the Union and its policy. These connections have to be made clear. The most important goal of our action is to show that behind the veil, the EU is an undemocratic institution, representing the economic interests of big business.

Not only our message, but also the form of our actions is important. Mass demonstrations are useful and inspiring, but we shouldn't look in the direction of the politicians and expect them to fulfil our demands. No, we can take action ourselves and show we do not need them governing us. Instead of trying to influence established politics, we can create our own political spaces through the means of direct action. The European 'leaders' may be surrounded by barbed wire, fences, water canons, tanks, dogs and a massive police force, but the lobby groups that have the biggest, harmful influence on EU policy, are still easy to hinder in their work.

If we undertake actions against multinational companies, it is important to link them to our criticism of our political system that allows and supports their actions for the "common good". It is this system that in our name wages war, destroys the environment and takes away possibilities for people to shape their own lives.

The new economy

What the biggest and most influential lobby groups have in common is that they all represent the biggest multinational companies in Europe. These are companies that put a huge amount of effort in promoting free trade policies and privatisation, because it lies in their interests to do so. Their size, knowledge and technical capacity gives them many advantages. Yet the immense economic power which they posses has given them an incredible political influence and an ability to force states into making decisions which ultimately benefit them.

These are the 'heroes' of our new economy. An economy where the corporate market is penetrating more and more parts of our society. Because of the amount of corporate products on the market, the brand and the advertising connected with it, is increasingly important. Almost everywhere we are surrounded by marketing campaigns trying to convince us to consume more and more useless products.

These multinational companies are often described as 'footloose' whereby they at any moment can decide to move their production to places with lower taxes, labour conditions and environmental regulation. Nation states, as a consequence of trying to please corporations and their lobby groups, get involved in a race to the bottom to keep them within their borders.

In reality companies are not that mobile. However, companies don't need to make any threats to be part of the political process. The EU was originally planned to be a corporate EU with a protected market. Competitive companies have taken over the lead in the ERT to create an EU based on competitiveness, or benchmarking.
Besides the new economy these lobby groups also stand for the breakdown of democracy through concentration of economic and political power. Most people weren't even given the opportunity to vote on entering the EU nor on major policy changes. The EU, largely an economical project, appears to have little respect for the democratic values that our European "leaders" so often preach.
To keep the European economy competitive, our environment and society is changed into a playground for multinational companies. Tons of asphalt are being put into new roads. The emphasis upon labour market flexibility subjects the ordinary worker to the demands of the market. Education and health systems are being forced to become more market oriented. Refugees are not being judged on fear of prosecution but more on their use for our labour market.
This trend is only increasing the marginalisation of people. The need for ever-growing corporate profits and the harsh competition which are dominant features of our capitalist economic system, undermines everybody's opportunity to choose and make decisions about their lives. Even corporate CEO's are bound to the wishes of their shareholders, who love the sight of another personnel cutback.
The only way can take back power over our lives is by decentralising and democratising political and economic power.

Lisbon Summit
Last year's Lisbon Summit was a milestone on the long road towards neo-liberal restructuring in the EU. Lisbon's 'Jobs Summit' adopted an action plan to transform the EU into 'the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world' by 2010. Among the far-reaching measures agreed on in Lisbon were the liberalisation of energy, transport, telecommunication and postal services markets as well as neo-liberal reforms of labour markets and pension systems.
But if Europe has to become the most competitive economy, this means there should be less competitive areas. This on competition based system will always have winners but also losers.

1) From Corporate Europe Observatory,

The Chemical Industry

"Chemistry making a world of difference", proclaims Cefic's somewhat prophetic message. "It reflects the excitement and value that chemistry brings to our everyday lives. We have an important role to play in making the world a better place. It is a serious statement" (1). Two things throw a particularly dark shadow over this self-appointed global saviour: the contribution of the chemical industry to a number of real environmental problems and its extremely lax attitude towards attempts to effectively tackle these problems. The manner in which the chemical industry tries to avoid its responsibility is discussed later. In this section we glance at some sorry situations in the world of chemicals.

A toxic mix
The worldwide use of industrial chemicals has increased considerably in the past decades. In 1998 the total production of organic chemicals was 400 million tonnes per year, compared to around 1 million tonnes in 1930 (2). The biggest producer of chemicals is Europe, which accounts for one third of the worldwide production. Asia (including Japan) and the United States account for the other two-thirds (3). The rapid increase in chemicals production is closely linked to the economic growth of the 60s and 70s. Thousands of new materials and products were discovered and brought out onto the market, usually without much research into the potential damaging effects of all the chemical substances. In the meantime it has become clear that a large number of synthetic chemicals are particularly damaging to the environment and health, yet the chemical industry continues with the production and distribution of them. They are found in everyday products such as paints, building materials, clothes, toys, pesticides, food, packaging, etc. During the production, as well as in use, and on disposal these products can release damaging substances. Because of this, synthetic chemicals are ubiquitous in water, food, the earth, and in living organisms (4). The existing European legislation dates from the early year of the environmental debate, when the far-reaching effects of an increasing production and damaging substances were barely apparent. Environmental protection was then not seriously integrated into the legislation and hence does nothing to tackle the problem at the source - by regulating the production and use of chemicals.

Dangerous export
A lucrative 'processing method' for dangerous waste is its export to developing countries or the former Eastern Block, under the guise of re-use or recycling. In many of these countries there are very few constraining environmental laws, or difficult environmental organisations. There is also no advanced technology to process the waste. Untransparent transport routes, loopholes in the legislation and creative interpretation of the terms 'waste' and 'recycling' make it problematic to combat this poisonous trade. Such an attempt was indeed made on the international level with the Basel Convention which saw the light of day in 1994. This convention should, with effect from 1998, forbid the export of dangerous waste from the OECD countries (the world's 24 most industrialised countries) to the rest of the world - including waste transported for 'recycling'. Meanwhile the ban still has to be ratified and the industry has done its lobby work in order to avoid that it will take effect. The ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) has supported bilateral accords between countries which could effectively undermine the ban. Alongside this, the lobby club has pleaded to the WTO (World Trade Organisation) to lift the ban, because it should disrupt free trade (5).

AS well as the export of dangerous waste there is another tendency: the export of dangerous and polluting technologies to NIC's (Newly Industrialising Countries) and developing countries. Given that these countries do not in general have sufficient means for 'clean-up' technologies such as emission filters, as well as the control over the production cycle is often missing, this results in particularly unpredictable situations. (Where does the waste go? Under what conditions are dangerous products produced and transported? etc). Only the exporter comes out better off in the final account. This export is immoral and damaging for people and the environment. In this way the importing countries are set up to follow a development model whose vices are already proven. The developed countries avoid having to invest in real solutions for pollution and in the development of future markets in the area of ecologically responsible products and technologies.

The European Union has been working since 1998 on a revision of its chemicals policies, a process that resulted, in February 2001, in a 'white paper' on chemicals, put together by the European Commission (6). Despite the engagement of various interest groups in this revision process, the final result is an impermissible concession to the chemical industry, in which the path to a sustainable society is rejected. (see further explanation of the white paper in the notes at the end of this article)

The all-powerful weather gods
Numerous scientific studies show that the Earth is slowly getting warmer. According to the scientists of the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) the average temperature of the Earth's surface will be 1 to 3.5 degrees Celsius warmer in 2100 than in 1990, if the present trends continue. The sea level will rise between 15 and 95 centimetres because of the expansion of the oceans and the melting of the glaciers and ice caps. The effects of this climate change will be large and will be different from region to region. The same IPCC scientists say that 'the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate.' The majority of the human influence comes from Western industrialised countries. The developing countries will suffer most from the climate change.

In the 1997 Kyoto protocol it was agreed that the 39 industrialised countries should by 2010 have reduced their CO2 emissions by 5.2% of their 1990 level. Considering that the IPCC believes that a reduction of 60 to 90% is necessary for stabilisation, the Kyoto conditions are, to say the least, disappointing. More painful is that since 1990 greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase (+10% in 1996 compared to 1990), and that there are few signs of a change of course in these developments. The chemical industry is not the only sector responsible for climate change, but we can blame them for their part of the emissions and even more for their policy to frustrate the Kyoto protocol and therefore any serious reduction targets.

The chemical industry is one of the most outspoken obstructers of measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use. There are various reasons for this. Firstly the sector includes the large operators and processors of fossil fuels such as Shell and BP Amoco. Secondly the chemical industry makes a considerable contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Chemical companies are presently emitting 80% more CO2 than in 1990. A serious reduction in emissions means a reduction in chemicals production, rather than the desired expansion. One can also wonder if there is still place for big chemical firms in the industrialised west, or whether it is not time to begin a transition to work opportunities in sustainable sectors. Thirdly, a portion of the chemical sector is extremely energy intensive. Particularly because of this energy intensity (for example, about 15% of the energy delivered in Belgium is used for chemical industry) and because of its dependence on unsustainable forms of energy, the chemical industry shrinks from measures which would tax or limit the use of fossil fuels. It is also a vocal opponent of a European CO2 levy, a fiscal instrument already used by 8 of the 15 European member states.

1) Cefic, Our new identity. The basic elements, s.d., p. 10.
2) EEA (European Environment Agency) and UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), Chemicals in Europe, Low Doses, High Stakes? Annual message 2 on the state of Europe's Environment, 1998.
3) CEFIC, Facts & Figures. The European chemical industry in a worldwide perspective. 2000 Report, 2000, p. 9.
4) S. Dyekjaer en M. Boye, Chemicals under the spotlight - from awareness to action, The Danish Ecological Council, 2000, p. 10. (zie of
5) A SEED, Corporate Lobby Groups and the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development. How the ICC and WBCSD greenwash themselves for Rio+10, 2001, p. 6.
(6) Een witboek bevat een reeks voorstellen voor een bepaald beleidsterrein, die op ambtelijk niveau zijn uitgewerkt. Een groenboek daarentegen is slechts een verzameling ideeën die als uitgangspunt moeten dienen voor besprekingen die uiteindelijk tot een gezamenlijk besluit moeten leiden. Beide hebben tot doel betrokkenen te informeren, zodat deze hun mening kunnen geven alvorens een nieuwe wetgevende procedure wordt ingeleid. W. Weidenfeld, W. Wessels, Europa van A tot Z.


Since its establishment in 1972, Cefic (the European Chemical Industry Council) has become a complex network of over 40,000 national chemical federations, bigger and smaller chemical companies, thematic lobby groups, and 'senior advisory groups'. Together these affiliated corporations employ about 2 million people and are responsible for 30% of the world's chemical production (1). Cefic is an important player in European policymaking and it is proud to be able to prepare its members for changes of policy and so reduce the negative influence of European and other legislation (2). Cefic has a growing influence at the international level where they use a double strategy: first they try to block interference by the government and secondly they promote dubious voluntary initiatives. In their words "Our objective is to be a reliable representative of the chemical industry and offer our members the services they need, maximise their benefits and in doing so, reduce their costs" (3). Although it is sometimes expressed in terms of prosperity (4) and sustainable development, the whole structure of the Cefic is focussed on supporting the growth of the chemical industry, its competitiveness and promoting free trade. According to Jean-Pierre Tirouflet (president), Cefic has to take care of three priorities. 'The first concerns the public perception of the industry.' This is important to get legislation that is positive for the chemical industry. Cefics second priority is the 'exchange of information within the industry and a closer relationship with the European Commission and Parliament'. And the third is 'to assist the enlargement of of the EU.' The Cefic can help with issues such as health, safety and the environment (5). These three priorities will be reviewed here one by one.

Public opinion and legislation
Because of some privileges and good contacts with the European policy makers Cefic increasingly succeeds in influencing the policymaking. Socially and environmentally sensitive themes are only included if they do not harm the competitiveness of the chemical industry (6) and they can be combined with the 'sound principles' of innovation and sustainable development, and take into account the interests of all parties.(7). The word 'innovation' is being used completely for image, influencing policy and maximising profit: every event which could threaten the image or the freedom of the chemical industry must be immediately dealt with -- and there are no guarantees that this will not happen at the cost of people and nature.
Cefic is working at the moment at creating a new identity, of a successful organisation which meets the desires of its clients: the members, the industry. The new creative, efficient coordinated Cefic is directed at better attuning the activities of its members among themselves, and guaranteeing their future (8). Cefic's position in the world should be strengthened by means of a 9-point plan.

Cefic tells you beautiful stories about voluntary measures taken in Europe but European Chemical Companies operate all over the world. Especially in Developing countries environmental and safety standards are often much lower. A good example is the Dutch-English Unilever. Next to a subsidiary company of Unilever in India that produces thermometers, 7,4 ton mercury-containing glass was found, located close to a school. (1)
Notwithstanding clear evidence, Unilever's subsidiary company denies any involvement. The factory is closed now, but cleaning up the area or compensating the victims is not in question.
This is just an example but it happens more often that Unilever violates the principles of the Global Compact it signed on to (see text on greenwashing and global compact). The website (2) of Unilever is filled with stories about responsible entrepreneurship and Unilever proudly present the fact that they spent about 50 million Euro a year on 'projects for the benefit of civil society'. The only but is, that that's about 0,1 % of their annual turnover and that they spent about 24 times as much on research and even 120 times as much on PR and marketing. In spite of the fact that Unilever's opinion is that 'social responsibility of companies needs to be taken very serious', their official strategy plan is called 'on the way to growth'; they strive for annual increase of their turnover and a profit margin of over 16%.

1) See article 'Unilever's Mercury Fever' from Nityanand Jayaraman on the CorpWAtch US site
2) Text and figures from Unilever's website Unilever

Responsible Care
Something that CEFIC is proud to show off is its Responsible Care project, operational since 1984. This "voluntary" action programme of the chemical industry receives lots of attention on its website. However, concrete results are not mentioned. National industrial organisations should enact it in their countries. It concerns eight points, which concern vague things such as the adoption of a list of principles, a check list, consultation about health, safety and environment and the use of one logo (9). But what in actuality has to be improved, and what environmental and social goals should be attained is not mentioned. It assumes that if companies just know what they are doing wrong, they will automatically improve themselves. It is absolutely without obligations and is very vague. Cefic maintains that these voluntary initiatives are more effective that legislation (10). In reality, however, the 'action program' just results in more reports and discussions, and its most important function is the avoidance of strict legislation and control over industrial activities (11). In the meantime the chemical industry can keep doing 'business as usual'. One such case is the Voluntary Energy Efficiency Programme (VEEP 2005). In this the chemical companies which are associated to Cefic do their best to improve their energy efficiency, but because of the desired increase in production, the energy consumption itself continues to increase.

BP Amoco
Deze Britse olieproducent is kampioen greenwashing. In de strijd tegen klimaat verandering noemt het zichzelf 'Beyond Petroleum'. BP Amoco veranderde zijn logo in een soort van groene bloem en het monteert zonnecellen op zijn benzinestations. Ondertussen wordt er een veelvoud uitgeven aan folders en reclamecampagnes om deze 'vrijwillige verbeteringen' bekend te maken. En zich is er niets mis met deze zonnecellen, maar de investeringen in hernieuwbare energie zijn slechts een schijntje vergeleken met de winst die wordt gemaakt met de verkoop van fossiele brandstof. Een voorbeeldje: BP Amoco kreeg een leidende positie op de markt voor zonne-energie door voor 45 miljoen dollar Solarex op te kopen, maar ondertussen werd ook voor 25 miljard uitgegeven aan ARCO om de olie-productie te vergroten. (1)
En ondanks dat BP Amoco's CEO John Brown al in 1997 officieel erkende dat klimaatverandering een serieus probleem is voor oliemaatschappijen (2), zoekt men ondertussen onverminderd door naar nieuwe oliebronnen, ook in zeer kwetsbare gebieden waar dit problematisch is voor milieu en lokale bewoners.

1) 'BP: Beyond Petroleum or Beyond Preposterous' van Kennie Bruno en 'CorpWatch US Corporate Greenwash Organizing Kit
2) The Earth Times, 19 Mei 1997

Information and policy
The open information exchange within the chemical industry should enable a better attunement of the respective activities of the companies. This sort of networking and 'renewal' should improve competitiveness, and enables the block to present one common vision to the external world. This further strengthens the active role of Cefic in Europe's legislative organs. We name some examples of the subjects that Cefic has concerned itself with. By supporting the TRIPs agreement and the European Patent Office (EPO) Cefic pleaded for a worldwide working patent system on all levels, for the promotion - once again - of competitiveness (12). Cefic has been involved for a long time in biotech interests dossiers: the lobby group EuropaBio, which merged, amongst others, Cefic's daughter ESNBA (13), maintains that the biotech industry will improve European competitiveness, will attract investment, create work opportunities and "the means to improve health, nutrition, safety and environmental performance and the quality of life generally" (14). Cefic strongly pleads for a further deregulation and liberalisation of the gas and electricity markets among others. This should result in lower energy prices 15 and more competition. All these points have been put on the agenda by neo-liberal politicians. Recently Cefic had success with the EU 'Strategy for a Future Chemical Policy'. This concerns the legislation for testing and strict conditions for the use of certain damaging substances. The German daughter of Cefic, VCI, used a strange argument in an advertisement: the extra tests would lead to a too large flow of data. Because of this it would be impossible to give customers information precise information about the safety of the products (16). On 15 November 2001 the European Parliament passed a severely weakened plan.

Europe and the environment
Cefic doesn't want any external control. In the framework of the White Paper (17) they set themselves against every attempt to decentralise the competition legislation. National governments must not be allowed to conduct their own politics, and enact their own policies to protect the environment ("environmental nationalism"). Cefic argues for the integration of the internal European (free) market and for the expansion of the European Monetary Union (EMU) and 'an acceptable degree of legal certainty' (18) (/freedom). Furthermore, they want their internal information flows remain protected in the interests of the industry, including in emergencies and legal proceedings (19). According to Cefic, the responsibility of the industry for ecological damage should be restricted to 'proven damage', which can be directly linked to the activities of the enterprise. Damage to people or possessions due to previous activities must not be included in charges (20). The legislating structured approach of risks must be based on the conclusion of "sound science" and collaboration with the industry. There must be a simple legislation (with as few as possible exceptions) which restricts itself to the products destined for the consumer (21). In short, Cefic and its members, as experts (22), want as little as possible interference in carrying out their plans. Considering the Kyoto protocol, Cefic pleads for an implementation of the protocol in such a manner so as to keep the power of international competition and possibilities of growth. Emissions trading, 'joint implementation' and 'clean development mechanisms' are acceptable practices for them because of their lower costs than decreasing real greenhouse gas emissions. They primarily support this sort of low-cost long-term agreements and a project based flexible approach to environmental problems (23). They push into the far future a global approach to global environmental problems - which should in any case, according to them, remain based on voluntary initiatives. Cefic does not attempt in any way to try to find a way to realise or stimulate such a global approach. This would not help the competitiveness or public opinion. Obviously, hushed-up damage is not damage?

Aventis is a huge, dirty transnational corporation with annual sales of 18 billion euro and around 90,000 employees in 120 countries worldwide. It is the third largest producer of agrochemicals. It also produces animal feed supplements and genetically modified (GM) crops. Aventis is most infamous for producing starlink corn - the GM corn that was only approved for animal feed in the US but found its way into the human food chain the world over. Many people claim to have had severe allergic reactions to starlink contaminated corn - the reason it wasn't approved for human consumption by the US department of Agriculture was that allergic reactions were considered a risk.
Aventis signed on to the United Nations Global Compact in July 2000, promising among other things to support "a precautionary approach to environmental challenges." The Starlink contamination fiasco and their subsequent attempts to have starlink approved for human consumption demonstrate this to be a lie, perpetrated for PR purposes. Aventis is also part of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and has participated in the Council's Biotechnology Scenario Project. The objective? "…to articulate a context for strategy development in biotechnology in light of public values and issues of sustainable development." - a cynic might translate the spin as "how to overcome obstructive public reservations about genetic engineering". They aim to produce a "set of principles and a framework for innovation" - that is produce a voluntary code to persuade governments that legislation is unnecessary. Aventis is co-chairing the project.
The Life Counts project is a book produced by Aventis that demonstrates their heartfelt commitment to protecting biodiversity. "For every copy of the book that is sold in the industrialized countries, Aventis will donate one to schools, libraries, or institutes in Africa, Asia or Latin America," - all key growing regions and markets for GM crops. Another greenwash example; Aventis CropScience sponsors CropGen, an industry initiative which "will make the case for crop biotechnology and help achieve a more balanced debate about genetically modified (GM) crops in the UK." Its PR says: "CropGen comprises an independent panel of scientists and specialists on agriculture, plantscience, microbiology, ecology and consumer affairs. Its aim is to provide information for the public, interest groups and the media." Reliable?

sources (in fact huge chunks of text):
"Aventis" - Corporate Watch briefing
"Aventis: Global Compact Violator" By Gabriela Flora, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Aventis website
RAFI Commmunique - Globalization, Inc. Concentration in Corporate Power: The Unmentioned Agenda

1) Cefic's Artcles of Association, june 2000.
2) "Cefic's Role" op Cefic's website :
3) Cefic 21. A new Cefic to meet tomorrow's challenges, p.4, Alain Perroy, Director General.
4) "…to use and guide the market in the bid to ensure prosperity", Ken Collins, The future of EU Environment Policy, September 1997, and "…the fullest possible contribution to Europe's prosperity, whilst safeguarding the environment.", Jean-Pierre Tirouflet, President, Our Annual Review 2000, Instilling Confidence, p. 3.
5) Our Annual Review 2000, Instilling confidence, p. 3.
6) Vgl. Council of Ministers Industry Affairs, 14 nov 1996. In: Cefic Annual Report, 1996, p. 24.
7) Cefic. Our Annual Review 2000, Sound principles, p. 10.
8) Cefic. Our Annual Review 2000, Building Cefic 21, p. 5, Alain Perroy, Director General.
9) Cefic website:
10) Cefic. Our Annual Review 2000, Achieving recognition, p. 12.
11) Joshua Karliner, "The Corporate Planet: Ecology and Politics in the Age of Globalization", Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, p.189. source: Corporate Europe Observer, "Cefic: The Toxic Lobby".
12) Cefic. Our Annual Review, Sound principles, p. 11.
13) Senior Advisory Group on Biotechnology (connected to CEFIC) en European Secretariat for National Bio industry Associations.
14) Cefic Position Paper, "Patents: Key to Innovation in Europe", November 1996. Bron : Corporate Europe Observer, "Cefic : The Toxic Lobby".
15) Corporate Europe Observer, "Cefic : The Toxic Lobby", p. 3.
16) European Voice, 31 october - 7 november 2001
17) Gepubliceerd door de Europese Commissie in 1999, handelt over de "regels" van internationale competitie.
18) Cefic. Our Annual Review, Sound principles, p. 11.
19) idem
20) idem
21) idem
22) Alain Perroy, Director General, speaks in connection with Cefic 21 about "maximizing expertise" and "demonstrating organisational excellence" al keywords for its success. A new Cefic to meet tomorrow's challenges, Maximising expertise, p. 6.
23) Cefic, Post-Kyoto views on climate policies, In conclusion, p. 4.

What's wrong with lobbying?

lobbying: To try to influence the thinking of legislators or other public officials for or against a specific cause ( dictionary)

Big multinational corporations are responsible for social and environmental problems. There are problems in the processes of obtaining raw materials (for example, deforestation, contamination and the displacement of original inhabitants), in production (poor working environments, emission of damaging substances, high energy use), in transport (energy use, encroachment into and disruption of certain areas), in sales (misinforming customers, putting small competing firms out of business). Firms have very big financial interests in keeping up 'business as usual'. For us there are a lot of reasons to choose for, and to fight for, another form of production and another economy. In this our arguments are often confronted with the big PR apparatus that the companies have at their disposal. But what is actually so wrong and dangerous about these interested parties and their lobbyists? Shouldn't we be happy with freedom of expression, including for the businesses?

With this action leaflet we don't want to forbid lobby groups. The problem lies with the activities of the companies themselves, and with the politicians and others who listen to the businesses and their lobbyists, and fall for their tall stories. In order to minimise the influence of these lobby groups, which must not be underestimated, here we look critically at a few parts of the lobbying process.

Lobbying begins simply with the supplying of information which is also sometimes requested. It is perfect for the lobbyist if they are viewed by the politicians as advisors, rather than interested parties. Sometimes it just comes down to lobby groups paternalistically giving out their report figures to various public authorities.

For businesses it is important to know long in advance what could happen. This makes it possible to participate at the right time, or to cut undesired developments off in the bud, or to achieve a desired change before the victims have cottoned on. Therefore it is necessary to keep track of reports, letters and changes in political parties, parliaments and governments, at all levels. Further, informal conversations in the corridors and at dinner are very important in obtaining timely information. All in all this is a lot of work, but multinationals and their lobby groups are big enough to be able to do this.

Image is also very important for businesses. Not only to win customers, but also to influence public authorities. The expensive advertising campaigns are often aimed at convincing politicians and other policy makers that they are dealing with a well-meaning, trustworthy business or sector. If a company presents itself as environmentally friendly, but only makes a few cosmetic changes and does nothing to alter its policies, this is known as 'greenwashing'. Because of relatively large amount of attention to environmental problems in the past years, greenwashing has also taken off in this time. More about this in the next section.

Official cooperation
Increasingly often it no longer rests at purely giving advice, but there are institutionalised links of cooperation, or 'partnerships' between public authorities and the business sector. In many cases the big business interest groups were set up these partnerships, and then continue to actively contribute to them. Officially this occurs because of the predicted win-win situation: the government ('and therefore the country') and the business sector will both benefit from it. The real reasons are often money shortages and increasing powerlessness of the 'rolled-back' state. For businesses sometimes the partnerships are just a manner to get projects or orders, but it is also used as a forum to exert influence, firstly by obtaining more information, and by polishing their own image: 'how could anything be wrong with us if the democratically elected leadership works with us?'

The playing field is not level

Not only business lobbies. Environmental NGOs, trade unions, and other interest groups also try to influence policy. Don't forget the parties either. There is also a very vague distinction between the honest supplying of desired information and advice, and conscious lobbying with clear self-interest. The 'lobby battle' is at the moment so unfair because of the unequal positions. Business can spend hundreds of millions on their lobbying and image. They are present at international conferences with thousands of people and with polished and expensive presentations. They are there at an EU Summit, a climate summit, or a WTO meeting. The preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio+10) show the same thing: business who wants to explain how the environment must be saved, and what sort of society various groups of people want to have.

This lobby industry makes it very obvious what one of the problems is with the free market economy: it is an unstable system with 'positive feedback'. The more power you have the easier it is to become more powerful. Groups without a lot of financial support find it impossible to find enough time and resources to completely follow the politics, and to create contacts with everyone. 'And our country's economy is far too important to be left to poor people who don't know anything?' Or maybe not...

Thanks to a somewhat old, but still good article 'An introduction to the covert world of corporate lobbying' from Corporatewatch UK.

The European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT) is a club of 48 'captains of industry' of the largest European TNCs with privileged access to EU and national decision-makers. The ERT has been saying for years that 'the interests of European industry, its customers and the communities in which it operates, will be best served by promoting competition and competitiveness on a European scale' (1). This aim seems to be totally adopted by EU politicians. Moreover the ERT is proud on its direct involvement in the preparation of the so-called 'Job Summit' in Lisbon (2). During the last years it has been at the forefront in promoting industry self-regulation over government-enforceable mechanisms. The group has also fought any form of CO2 or energy tax. The ERT mentions some projects where corporations implemented some improvements. More general statistical results of those voluntary actions are not available.
But for the ERT this is still not enough. Points on its wish list which it wants to been seen realised as soon as possible are: Liberalisation of the energy and transport markets, public transport, postal services and public pensions system. It displeases the ERT that there is lack of 'progress' in reshaping education systems to fit corporate needs (3).
A quote from the ERT from 1997 illusrates their attitude clearly: "The green groups are creaking with age ... they just don't recognise that it is a different world, with different needs. All they succeed in doing is making it more difficult for industry to take positive action on a voluntary level." (4) It is one world against the other.

1) from the ERT website
2) See article 'ERT Moves to Next Phase in Europe's 'Double Revolution' van Corporate Europe Observatory ', Corporate Europe Observer, Issue 7, October 2000,
3) See CEO artikel 'From Lisbon to Stockholm, The ERT Evaluates 'Progress' in Neoliberal Reforms', Corporate Europe Observer - Issue 9
4) phone interview with Caroline Walco, ERT, 24 octobre 1997

An important lobby group is the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederation (UNICE), the European Employers organization.
They cooperate with the ERT, but their focus on influencing the European Commission is even stronger. The problem in general is that the influence of national governments is undermined and the European Commission has been following the outlined policy from lobby groups for years. One of the issues UNICE lobbied for years, together with the ERT, was changing the policy of the EU to vote about trade-treaties, such as WTO, unanimously and instead vote with the majority of votes. They succeeded; this "fast-track" was approved in Nice in 2000.
Not long ago, UNICE advocated that the EU should not sign the Kyoto protocol yet. Developing countries, who have a much lower emission of greenhouse-gasses, should promise to reduce their emissions first. (1)
Furthermore, UNICE took the role of an expert in the field of economic forecasts. Each year it publishes the 'Economic Outlook', an analysis of several economic sectors and regions that wasn't called for, with a discussion of the economic and social policies in Europe, including a list of concerns regarding each countries individually.
The conclusion of the 'Outlook 2001' is but all too clear: "Thus it is clear that Governments are still active in many countries in terms of new regulations, which make the business climate more difficult for business to work in. (...) '[the tax cuts] need to be accompanied by efforts to make labour markets more flexible, with fewer regulations and restrictions on employers'. (2) The problem is that most politicians value this document very high, because "they will know". They seem to forget that UNICE is not exactly an impartial player in this field.

1) Greenhouse Market Mania, Corporate Europe Observatory, 2000
2) Economic Outlook, UNICE, October 2001

In the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue (TABD), over 100 of the most important Northern American and European companies are represented. They advocate worldwide harmonisation of rules and standards and see every new regulation as trade-restriction. The TABD is one of the most dedicated pleaders of a new enlarged WTO-round. Since their establishment in 1995 they have been very successful in influencing politics. They take it even as far as presenting a wish-list to the various governments and after a certain amount of time report back, as some sort of teachers, how pleased they are with the progress that's been made.
That they became successful quite soon is shown by a quote from Al Gore, at that time vice-president of the US: " I know that you are proud of the fact that of the 129 recommendations TABD has made in the past three years, over 50 percent has been implemented into law. I wish we had that same level of success with Congress!" (1) This has also called 'public private partnership' in the area of policymaking. (2)
The EU policies which the TABD is resisting at the moment are: the restriction on opening the European market for genetically modified food, the gradual abolition of HFC's (greenhouses gasses that are used in refrigerators), a ban on animal testing for cosmetics and the take back and recycling arrangements of electric machinery.
The past few years more and more protest is seen at TABD-meetings. Even though the TABD decided to move their meeting in Stockholm from the 11 and 12th of October because of the attacks on New York, there where still around 1.000 people present on the 11 and 12th of October at a demonstration (in Stockholm) and an alternative conference. (3)

1) Al Gore in his speech bij de TABD Conferentie in Charlotte,USA, Novembre 6 1998
2) 'Transatlantic Governance in the Global Economy', Pollack and Shaffer, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001
3) More information on the actions in Stockholm can be found at <> en op <>. For those who want to read more on TABD we advise to read the article 'TABD in Troubled Water' from Corporate Europe Observatory.


Until a few years ago it was straight-forward: business simply denied any social and environmental problem. If politics threatened to go the 'wrong' way, then the messages about the importance of the economy and work opportunities in the western home countries were hammered out. But in the past years they more often try to make it clear to the world that they (corporations) are necessary to remove environmental problems and social misery from the world, and that they are already voluntarily hard at work on these things. This happens for example by means of advertising campaigns, a new green logo, beautifully presented example projects, and of course, a lot of lobbying. This new strategy is known as greenwashing.
There are two reasons for this change. Firstly because of the continuing flood of critical scientific reports, denial was no longer possible. Not even with very expensive PR campaigns. Secondly, increasing numbers of businesses found that they could profit from environmental problems. Trade in emission rights, patents on quick growing trees and privatisation of increasingly scarcer water: they all produced money. An overview of a number of methods of greenwashing:

PR campaigns
In advertising campaigns the business is associated with something green or socially minded. Aeroplanes are compared to swans, you clean the air if you fill up with clean petrol, energy firms just have windmills....But aside from TV, newspaper and billboard advertisements a lot else goes on. Businesses present their greenest side to the stock exchanges and during conferences and public addresses. Money is spent on fancy green folders and other promotion material.

The green lobby
Businesses and their interest groups send thousands of lobbyists to conferences on environmental or economic subjects. They know their way through the conference centres better than their colleagues from the (environmental) NGOs. While outside a demonstration of concerned citizens will perhaps make the TV if some windows are smashed, inside hundreds of business representatives sit with the world leaders at the table.

Consultation with interested parties
In order to make clear to the world that they really mean the best for the environment and the third world, increasing numbers of 'Multistakeholder Dialogues' are organised. In these all interested parties ('stakeholders') can sit around the table with business and make their complaints and their wishes known. One problem with the official discussions between the government and business is that the agenda is already decided in outline: it is only possible to talk about how one project (or a treaty) will be carried out and about compensatory measures, but the project itself is never up for discussion. Forget about talking critically about growth in production and the economy.

In answer to concerned questions and remarks, businesses (and politicians if they are present) will say that they completely share the concerns, that they see that there are problems, and these will be worked on. Sometimes a number of moderate NGOs will be carefully chosen, but more often everyone can join in. If they don't reach a conclusion during the discussions that is not a problem. The press has at least seen that the problem is being seriously worked on. All of this enhances the image of business as a trustworthy party, and sometimes as a saviour in dreadful days. It is even more annoying that sometimes even the NGOs involved are lulled to sleep by the sweet stories, and walk outside thinking that they have again been able to make the world a little bit better. You could also call this 'polder model greenwashing'.(the Polder model is a model originating from the Netherlands whereby all 'sides' sit together and talk about their differences in order to reach a solution. It has effectively secured the silence of labour unions and any real opposition to corporate ideas)

Example projects
Nearly all big businesses have got one or two green or socially-minded projects. Oil companies invest in solar cells, agro-mulinationals deal in organic seed, and even chemical company Akzo shows off its windmills. The amount spent on the promotion of the improvement is often more than the costs of the project itself. As well as polishing their image there is another foul smell associated with investment in clean technology: by buying up green competitors, green developments can be held back for as long as they are undesirable for the profit-making, but polluting core-business. One such example is Shell and BP AMOCO with their solar cells.

What business has the biggest hatred for is regulation. A large part of the lobbying aims to prevent regulation and binding social and environmental directives. To reach this, self-regulation is promoted. Business wants, if necessary in cooperation with governments and interest groups, to draw up non-binding agreements which they will try to fulfil. They also wish to keep under their control the checks made on the results of self regulation and voluntary initiatives. They understand the situation and they can do it most efficiently and cheapest. If we would only just trust them and leave them in peace. This has been called 'Deep Greenwashing' by the American research group Corporate Watch. (1)
This tactic is successful: Liikanen (EU Enterprise Commissioner) became a big advocate of self-regulation after UNICE in particular, but also other lobby groups, pleaded for some years for self-regulation instead of normal legislation.
A recent Commission report stated that this is necessary if the European Union is to become the cheapest and easiest place to do business. A progress report by the Commission states that these radical reforms are needed "if the EU is to become the cheapest and easiest place to do business in the world" (2)

As it was said in the piece about lobbying there are more and more official partnerships between governments and business, so-called Public Private Partnerships (PPP). These projects are misused by business to polish their image. these partnerships exist from local to global levels. The United Nations, which is seen by almost everyone as a trustworthy objective respectable organisation, is in particularly being misused. One example of this is the one and a half year old 'Global Compact'. In order to help the underfunded UN realise some of their environmental and social 'projects', as well as other reasons, the UN has bedded down with multinationals and lobby groups. To be allowed to participate businesses must respect nine principles (2). Many companies actually don't give a damn about these. (3) Although the Global Compact has not yet yielded a single concrete result; this partnership is already mentioned with much pride in the yearly reports, folders and websites of the participating businesses. For the showing-off with the UN logo, the term 'bluewashing' is already in use (4). Another organisation with whom businesses like to appear in a photo-op is the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Activists' strategy

Business' new 'green' strategy requires another strategy from action groups and NGOs. We have to look at what companies are doing and what sort of message they are trying to bring across. Therefore our message too, has to be well thought-out. Business will try to paint 'radical' critics who don't want to participate in their discussions as obstinate and unreasonable. Business attempts to actively play to their critics. Business and lobby groups have got whole teams to keep an eye on the (direct-) action movement and to take the wind out of their sails. A PR guru listed the following step-by-step plan to beat activists: 'isolate' the radicals, 'cultivate' the idealists and school them so that they will work together with industry. (5)

Changed business culture?

Neither cost nor effort is spared in order to bring the new message across. The final message is that there has been a 'far-reaching cultural change' in business. However, in the meantime companies continue to strive for higher production, cost minimising and profit maximising. It is still the shareholders who decide and they are only interested in dividends and increased market value. Any development that stands in the way of this is taboo. It really is just about a misleading greenwashed layer on the outside!

1) More about this at the campaign against greenwashing at the website of CorpWatch US.
2) Interim Report from the Commission to the Stockholm European Council, 'Improving and Simplifying the Regulatory Environment', Brussel, maart 2001. See also
'"Better Regulation"' in CEO's Issue 9:
3) See officialUN Global Compact website
4) Alliance Monitors Global Compact Violators, CorpWatch US, October 18, 2001
5) Corpwatch US. More about greenwashing within the UN is to be found on the site of A SEED Europe
6) Andy Rowell, Greenwash Goes Legit, The Guardian, Wednesday July 21, 1999

Another Europe?

To establish a real democratic, participative society, it is necessary to decentralise political and economic power. In order to do this, we have to change the way our economical system operates and the way we think about the economy. It is clear for a lot of people that the capitalist economic system is harmful to our society, because of the gross inequalities it creates and increases, which results in a democratic deficit, marginalisation of workers, damage to the environment, and a general lack of accountability.
The need for ever-growing corporate profits results in fierce competition: in short profit has preference over social and environmental needs.
The idea that the nation-state is the solution and that we should go back to the welfare state also has its flaws. Not only is the nation state a far cry from real participative democracy, its borders also lead to exclusion, and the economic competition it engages in with other states will, in times of recession, lead to the same situation we're in now.
Faced with criticism, our government leaders often resort to the TINA argument:
"There Is No Alternative". If we listen to this excuse and won't look for an alternative there is never going to be any. But this argument is nothing more than a last resort if there's nothing left to legitimate the system with. It's up to us to take this argument out of order.
The capitalist system is based on, amongst others, the principle of 'comparative advantage'. This means that if in two places products A and B are made, it would be more efficient to have one place specialising in product A and the other in B. These two places then can trade their products which leads to a so-called 'win-win' situation. Because of the demand for ongoing economic growth this process leads to the present corporate led economic globalisation. However, this process doesn't always lead to a 'win-win' situation. A good example is the Third World countries that have been specialising in the export of natural resources for decades and have seen the price of these only going down.
The more a country specialises, the less control as they become dependent on global market prices in which they have no say, and therefore become pawns in the global economic market system.

Another problem is that of production. Economists argue that the capitalist system is the best in creating welfare, because everybody is working for their own interest. But, this welfare is very specific, measured by the amount of money one has to consume. Welfare is not measured by the true freedom to choose what you really want and need in your life. An existence based on need, not on primitive economic survival.
As a consequence we will have to do with less consumables and luxury articles. A world population with a western consumption style is completely not sustainable, think of those 1 billion Chinese that are starting to buy cars, washing machines air-conditioning etc. What is much more important is supplying everybody with their basic necessities. We think that people have a right to certain basic things, like food and housing and should not have to be forced to work to survive.
If we want to create an economy that works for everybody, we should start to undermine the power structures of the present system. Taking power back and decentralising and democratising it in our communities, companies, organisations and our own environment. By demanding it in the street and by taking direct action, by creating our own autonomous spaces.

Direct democracy and direct action;
a different perspective

The reason for this brochure is the occupation of the European lobby group Cefic. One of our complaints is the lack of democracy in lobby groups. Although industrial lobby groups differ very much between each other, they represent the interests of large companies and shareholders and not directly human interests. Cefic for example, lobbies for a lax attitude towards (dangerous) chemical substances and blocks a levy that could help combat the greenhouse effect. Human health or the preservation of life-giving ecosystems obviously do not weigh as heavily as the expansion of the chemical industry.

Unfair attempts by people or groups to oppress or exploit others is probably timeless. But nothing prevents us from fighting against this. A continual demand for the basic rights of people, animals and ecosystems is needed. We do this by engaging in direct action. Not only symbolic action to 'please' the media, but also, although just temporarily, to stop what we consider to be unjust or at least irresponsible. We will use no violence against people or property in this action, but will let other activists and critical people see that there is more possibilities than just demonstrating or signing petitions. We also want to inspire people with positive alternatives. This is not just about more socially minded or environmentally friendly production processes, but importantly also about a directly democratic way of working together.

Direct democracy
We are convinced that everyone has a right, together with others, to give a form to their life. On this level of society we stand for a direct democratic model of organisation. That means that the power of decisions is as far as possible equally spread among the people and important freedoms are protected. In order to allow a democracy to function everyone must have access to information: information about what is going well or badly, and what is important for your or someone else's life. What we as activists often notice is that there is a huge amount of information kept back in order to play certain (power) games. Exactly because of this, actions are important to refine a democracy: the right to information is demanded. The attention of the public is, via the media, focussed on certain things, so that everyone can themselves critically decide about things that are happening.

But even if the information about outrages is public, it appears that very little changes. In a society there are a number of contradictory interests and one group will not easily give up their own interests, even if these negatively affect others. There is a legal system in order to settle conflicts of interests, but it often so that the powerful succeed in manipulating or stepping around this legal system. Certainly in an economically globalised world, where multinational companies deal the cards, a court working nationally is pretty powerless. There are in fact all sorts of things which are going wrong structurally: we should be able to accuse certain people, but they are just puppets in a structure in which the power relations have gone awry. When nothing happens because everyone avoids their responsibility, or when we are confronted with an imbalance of power relations that will not come back to normal unless we create a balancing power, then it is time for resistance and, if necessary, direct action.

In the case of Cefic we want to make it clear that they must stop their activities, or that they are not allowed the same degree of influence. Considering that no one is doing anything, we are going to stop their work temporarily.

Although this occupation may let it look like we will take the law into our own hands, and that is partly the case, we hope people will elaborate on this action in heir own way. Most important is that we force Cefic to legitimise themselves, something we don't believe they can do. In order to keep the possibility of dialogue with other citizens open, we communicate of standpoint. Furthermore, we do this in as non-violent a manner as possible, because we recognise the workers of Cefic as individual people and potential participants in a democratic decision-making.

But the avoidance of violence is also due to our alternative view that we wish to present. A direct action is, like a novel, a sort of breaking up of time and space. Direct actions are also passage to the impossible, as has been shown by the actions for universal suffrage, or against the construction of new infrastructure in environmentally valuable areas. A break up of time and place because out of the confronting character of direct action we want to bring forward an alternative. Naturally there are our concrete demands that we voice in the press. But we go about our action preparation and action endeavours as democratically as possible and without hierarchy. Furthermore we avoid racism, sexism and violence.

Direct action has taken different forms in relation to the historical context: creativity and invention are more important than certain dogmas. It is very clear to us that if we want to tackle the present ecological and social problems, we have to go further in raising awareness and getting everyone involved in making decisions. Otherwise we just slip into to the umpteenth dictatorship, in whatever form.

Hopefully you find our form of action legitimised and you are so inspired to become active yourself.

Cefics misleading logo

In folders and on its website Cefic explains the colours in its new logo: 'Green reflects our attitudes and principles. Maximising health and safety values, caring for the environment and bringing benefits to society.' But as long as those principles are not more as reports and empty promises this green should be replaces by brown, standing for the pollution caused by the chemical industry, and by red standing for the blood, sweat and tears from workers in the third world and people damaged by disasters health problems caused by unsafe factories and victims of the on exploitation based economy supported by the Cefic.