Large corporations have a tendency of exploiting third world countries for their resources, which certainly seems to be the case when it comes to exporting and importing commodities. They often use their influence to produce these products as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. This can have devastating impacts on the people living there and the environment.
Environmental and social issues
This industry causes extensive environmental issues through its production of commodities. More detail surrounding the different types of commodities can be found on the Friends of the Earth: Planet Over Profit Commodities Factsheet. The most noticeable consequence is deforestation, which causes even more environmental impacts. Deforestation is a method used by many businesses to create space and to obtain wood. In Southeast Asia, for example, 45% of oil palm plantations came from areas that were forests in 1989, which highlights the popularity of using deforestation to make cheap products. However, it does more harm than good – it ruins habitats for animals, removes oxygen from the atmosphere, and releases CO2 previously absorbed back into the atmosphere. This all contributes towards the level of pollution in the local and global atmosphere. Increased levels of pollution are not only bad for the environment, but they are also bad for local communities who end up ingesting the polluted air, water and food. This can be detrimental to their health.
Additionally, forests that are destroyed for the space and/or its resources, there are often people living on or nearby the land. This does not seem to discourage companies from finding their resources/ space elsewhere. Instead, people (most commonly indigenous groups) are forced from their homes. This is relatively easy for companies to do as some countries have weaker laws and regulations surrounding territory. Evicting groups from their homes is unfair and should not be allowed to happen.
The damage in action
As identified by Friends of the Earth, there are many different corporations using unethical methods to try and profit from their business as much as they can. All of these companies are causing irreversible damage. There are numerous amounts of companies partaking in these activities but there are too many to list, so here are just a few examples:
- Ikea – Ikea is a well-known business across the world for selling affordable furniture. It is affordable for a reason. To create its products at a quick pace, the brand exploits forests within many countries, where laws and regulations are not exactly enforced. Subsequently, CO2 is being released back into the atmosphere and habitats are being lost.
- Astra Agro Lestari (AAL) – This company is known for unethically taking land to make palm oil to sell on to other companies. Whilst some companies have stopped working with them because of this, there are still some involved. For example, Unilever still buys from them; making them a key target within this campaign.
- Cargill – This company is particularly harmful to the well-being of animals, as its main goal is to deliver large quantities of meat throughout several countries. To do this, they fatten up animals to then slaughter and sell on to other corporations such as Asda and Tesco.
- JBS SA – This company is a large contributor to deforestation. Over the span of 12 years, it has been estimated that the company has deforested 200,000 ha directly and 1.5 million indirectly.
The exploitation of the environment and the people is becoming too normalised; this needs to change.
Friends of the Earth. (2023). Planet over Profit Commodities Factsheet: For Local Action Groups. Available at: https://groups.friendsoftheearth.uk/sites/default/files/documents/2023-03/Planet%20over%20Profit%20Commodities%20Factsheets.pdf