InterviewDow defends Olympics sponsorship from Bhopal criticism

07 February 2012 23:52  [Source: ICIS news]

By William Beacham

LONDON (ICIS)--A Dow Chemical executive responded on Tuesday to critics protesting the company's Olympics sponsorship because of the Bhopal accident, saying it has no legal or moral responsibility for the 1984 chemical disaster because Union Carbide, which it bought in 2001, had sold its interests in India seven years previously.

There has been much criticism about Dow’s sponsorship of the Olympics because of the Bhopal accident in India.

But George Hamilton, the company’s vice president for Dow Olympic Operations, insisted that the company has no liability, moral or legal, for the Bhopal disaster.

“I recognise that this was a terrible incident, but Union Carbide settled its liabilities seven years before Dow purchased the company. The moral issue was addressed then. The company was sold and if there is a trail of liability associated with this issue it’s misdirected to paint it as a path to Dow.”

According to Hamilton, the Bhopal chemical plant, which exploded in 1984, was designed and operated by Union Carbide India Ltd in which Union Carbide was an investor.

In 1989 Union Carbide paid $470m (€357m) under a settlement directed by the supreme court in India. Subsequent Indian court investigations in 1991 and 2007 found the settlement to be fair, adequate and equitable.

In 1994 Union Carbide sold its shares in Union Carbide India Ltd to battery manufacturer Eveready Industries India.   

“That severed their connection with India. Dow bought Union Carbide in 2001. I recognise that it was a terrible incident but Union Carbide had severed its links with India seven years before it was purchased by Dow,” he added.

Hamilton said Dow’s moral obligation is to support initiatives like Responsible Care to ensure the safe production of chemicals and to ensure there is never a repeat of the Bhopal accident.

However, Dow's sponsorship of the Olympics continues to be a target of criticism because of the Bhopal.

Recently, the BBC reported that a member of a voluntary commission connected to London's Olympics had resigned over Dow's sponsorship.

Meredith Alexander reportedly said she resigned from the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 so she could bring attention to Bhopal, according to the BBC.

($1 = €0.76)

By: Will Beacham
+44 20 8652 3214

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