Glencore’s global presence and market power stand in no relation to its meager efforts to mitigate adverse impacts on human rights and the environment.

"Recently, I was threatened in the middle of the road by a guy with a gun. When I confronted him, he got scared and fled in his car. The following day, I saw the same car on Glencore’s company parking lot."
Ricardo Machado, member of the union Sintramienergetica, and employee at Glencore subsidiary Prodeco


The Case

In 2008, Glencore received the Public Eye Jury Award for its irresponsible and opaque business practices in Colombia. Glencore holds shares in coal mines that have been heavily criticized for causing massive pollution and serious health risks to local communities. Glencore also fell into disrepute for its lack of transparency with regards to the company’s business practices. Moreover, the commodities giant was accused of having an “anti-union” attitude. Reports about layoffs, intimidation, and the brutal breaking up of strikes were almost the order of the day, along with allegations of tax avoidance and the exploitation of weak government regulation.

Nominating Organisations

What Happened Since

After going public in 2011, the previously very secretive corporation was forced to become more transparent. Glencore invested a lot in PR; however, the changes on paper have not translated sufficiently into measures that respect the real needs of the local communities. In 2010, The Colombian Ministry of Environment ordered the relocation of three rural communities due to insufferable air pollution. Four years later, the communities still live with the fear and uncertainty of eviction and continue to see their right to health violated. Furthermore, the company sustained its “anti-union” attitude and its aggressive approach towards critics. The Swiss NGO Multiwatch is currently facing the threat of a libel suit in relation to the book they published in May 2014 on Glencore’s adverse business impact.

"We were very happy about the river; we always used to bathe in it. When it was raining, we caught a lot of fish. Today, all you can get out of the river is mud and the river is almost dried up. To make matters worse, they (the mine) release the dirty, wreaking water into the river whose stench even reaches our village."

− Inhabitant of the Colombian village of El Hatillo

Why Glencore was nominated for the Lifetime Award

The merger with Xstrata in 2013 turned Glencore, the biggest diversified commodity trading company, into one of the biggest mining companies in the world. The giant’s adverse business impact is thus not limited to Colombia. In Argentina, several legal proceedings for environmental pollution are being brought against a mining company in which Glencore has a 50% stake. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Glencore is accused of profiting from child labor. In Zambia, Glencore’s subsidiary Mopani Copper Mines has successfully avoided paying profit tax – despite a copper price boom – and is thus diminishing the potential benefits for the country and its people. Glencore’s global presence and market power stand in no relation to its meager efforts to mitigate adverse impacts on human rights and the environment.

Facts & Figures

  • Name: Glencore plc
  • Headquarters: Baar, Switzerland
  • Industry: Commodity Trade, Mining
  • Turnover 2013: US$ 232 Billion
  • Net Income 2013: US$ 7.2 Billion
  • Employees: 190‘000
  • CEO: Ivan Glasenberg