Swiss business and government monitoring organization the Berne Declaration and Greenpeace Switzerland have shortlisted India’s state-run mining giant among seven companies alleged to be guilty of the “most egregious cases of corporate crime.”
Nominations for the annual Public Eye People’s Awards were selected by the group’s jury of internationally known business ethicists and from reports compiled by the Institute for Business Ethics at Switzerland’s University of St Gallen.
The award will declare the worst corporate offender based on online voting and is scheduled to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Switzerland at the end of January.
Goldman Sachs, Shell and multinational security company G4S have received the most votes so far. Alstom, Repower and South African miner Lonmin are also included.
The Berne Declaration and Greenpeace said that as the world’s largest coal producer, Coal India, destroyed large animal habitats and robbed tribal people of their livelihood and homelands.
The group said at least 239 coal mines belonging to the Calcutta-based company operated without an environmental permit and that “corruption and nepotism are business as usual.”
Working conditions at Coal India operations were criticized through a dismal but unsourced record that charted 205 workers dead and 699 seriously wounded in 2010 alone.
Coal India said the figures were inaccurate and defended its environmental record, citing afforestation and rehabilitation programs.
“The numbers of death and accident being quoted by the organization are way off the mark,” a company official told the Times of India.
“There have been 92 fatalities in 2010, while injuries were 308. This has almost halved in 2011.”
Coal India also noted employment and cash payments to affected locals and an afforestation program which resulted in a rehabilitated area being declared a “no-go” reserve by the government.