The „worst company in the world“
Being awarded the title of „worst company in the world“ is certainly not an award that is fought over. However, many companies around the world have a reputation. It might be due to child labor, harmful ingredients, rainforest clearing, etc. – bad enough to be considered for this title. Read below which company has now been awarded the title “worst company in the world”; based on a lengthy report by the non-profit organization Mighty Earth.
When we ask for the ‚worst company in the world‘, many certainly think right away of Monsanto or Nestlé. The agricultural company Monsanto repeatedly made negative headlines which even earned the company the nickname ‚Mon-Satan‘. Moreover Monsanto, which was bought by Bayer in 2018 for around $66 billion, got its bad reputation mostly due to shady business strategies with genetically modified seeds. These genetically modified seeds helped the corporation gain monopoly power in agriculture. In addition, clever lobbying ensured that none of the company’s scandals were made public. For example, Monsanto falsified and even completely swept under the carpet test results against toxins used as well as manufactured products.
Ulitmately no legal consequences ensue. For those interested in the questionable machinations of Monsanto, watching the documentary film „Food Inc.“ is highly recommended. The documentary was troubling enough that Monsanto felt the need to publish a statement on their website. Since the Bayer buyout, the company has shed the name ‚Monsanto‘ and therefore operates under the name ‚Bayer‘.
The food company Nestlé, in turn, owes its bad reputation to a series of scandals. Such as a questionable campaign in the 1970s for baby food in developing countries, rainforest clearing, and child labor. Furthermore, Nestlé also drew negative attention when it was revealed that the company was pumping groundwater in water-scarce countries to market it as bottled water for profit. Meanwhile, Nestlé is trying to polish up its bad reputation by providing clean drinking water to parts of the population in Pakistan and Ethiopia, for example. Albeit, once the reputation is ruined, it is difficult to put it back into perspective. Conclusively, this is because attempts to improve the company’s image are now critically viewed as „greenwashing“.
Despite all the scandals that Monsanto and Nestlé have been involved in over the years, they are not enough to win the title of „Worst Company in the World“. The winner of this questionable title is the company Cargill. The company, based in Minnesota (USA), may not ring a bell to many across Europe at first. However, it is the largest privately owned company in the USA. It is trading worldwide in renewable raw materials as well as food and animal feed. The areas in which Cargill is active are indeed widely diversified: from cotton to oilseeds, from grain to sweeteners and from animal feed to biodiesel.
For example, all the eggs sold to McDonald’s in the USA come from Cargill. Other big names supplied by Cargill include Nestlé, Unilever, Burger King, Kellogg’s, and the American supermarket giants Walmart and Target. Cargill also supplies big names in German and Dutch retail – these include Edeka, Aldi, and Albert Heijn. In Germany, the company has twelve sites, with a headquarters in Krefeld. In Frankfurt’s industrial district of Höchst, for example, Cargill is producing biodiesel.
But where does Cargill’s bad reputation come from?
Cargill has been dubbed the worst company in the world. This was due to a long list of accusations, which were summarized by Mighty Earth in their report. Among other things, the company is accused of being linked to the kidnapping of children in poor countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia who are then forced to work on cocoa plantations. Children who cannot perform the shifts, which can last up to 14 hours, or who even want to escape, are held down violently by having their feet cut open. The children do not receive appropriate payment. Food, water, and sleep are hardly guaranteed.
As a consequence, legal proceedings have been opened not only against Cargill, but also against Nestlé which also has its fingers in the pie. Cargill meanwhile promises that it will try to reduce the ‚worst‘ cases of child labor by 70%. This promise is questionable for several reasons: Cargill is aware of the circumstances and yet chooses not to eliminate them completely. Alongside this, in a trial in 2018 the two defending parties Cargill, as well as Nestlé, justified that they were not responsible for labor conditions outside of their own country.
However, another court case is soon to be filed against Cargill. This court case is due to Cargill being aware of the kidnapping of children as well as their forced labor and working conditions, yet chose not to take any action. Thus, Cargill is considered an accomplice and should bear at least partial blame, along with the local companies primarily being responsible.
Another serious accusation against the company is its treatment of the environment and indigenous peoples in, for example, Paraguay. Throughout its history, Cargill has deliberately violated guidelines designed to protect the environment. Indigenous peoples also report that the company is driving them off their land. Cargill uses extreme force, including murder and biological weapons. Cargill is alleged to have intentionally sprayed pesticides over the indigenous people’s land. Further, being responsible for contaminated water that children drank and subsequently died from. The list of allegations against Cargill is endless and the examples given here are just a tip of the iceberg. The full report can be read on Mighty Earth.
In a nutshell
Unlike Nestlé & Co whose products are easy to recognize thanks to company logos, it is difficult to track which products in our supermarkets and restaurants are supplied by Cargill as the company is at the beginning of the processing chain. If you do not want to support Cargill financially by buying products from companies that are supplied by the company, you really need to look more deeply into the matter. Another option would be to completely avoid products that are associated with the corporation. This is possible, for example, by buying only organic products, completely avoiding convenience products, and making your own drinks, such as lemonade with tap water.
Finally, as a consumer, we need to be more aware of where our food and other products come from. It requires legal steps as well as customer awareness to change the current situation. However, until something changes, Cargill continues to deserve the title as the worst company in the world.