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Bond baddie stands up to "selfish" firms


Swiss actor Anatole Taubman, who recently played a James Bond villain, has called on companies at the World Economic Forum (WEF) to show greater responsibility.

Taubman hosted the Public Eye Awards in Davos that highlight unethical corporate practice. This year's vote named a gold mining firm and a Swiss utility company as the worst offenders.

Public Eye was set up by Greenpeace Switzerland and pressure group Berne Declaration in 2000 as a "WEF watchdog" and runs alongside the annual forum. Since 2005 the counter-globalisation movement has invited the public to name and shame firms they consider irresponsible.

United States gold extraction outfit Newmont Mining was voted the world's least ethical company. It stands accused of abusing the environment and local communities with its operations in Ghana.

The Bernische Kraftwerke utility firm topped the category of worst Swiss company on environmental grounds thanks to its efforts to build a coal-fired power plant in Germany.

Good guy

Taubman played a henchman to a villain who sought to take control of water supplies in the recent Bond film, Quantum of Solace. But he revealed his "good guy" credentials on Wednesday by denouncing corporate greed.

"I believe that companies should [show] social and community responsibility. Many have failed in their duties," Taubman told swissinfo.

He was particularly aggrieved at pharmaceutical firms that failed to fund vaccination programmes against deadly diseases in Africa. "I find that really irresponsible, bad and selfish," he added.

But unlike other speakers at the Public Eye Awards, Taubman does not believe that the WEF should be disbanded or that capitalism is the source of all evil.

The forum has come under even greater attack this year as the global financial crisis spills into the real economy, sparking recession in many countries. Detractors claim that the WEF is a party-fuelled contact bar for executives to hobnob and make business deals.

Positive Awards

Swiss parliamentarian Susanne Leutenegger-Oberholzer from the centre-left Social Democratic Party told the meeting that the forum was an "important fly-by-night lobby operation for the bankrupt neoliberal business model".

But Taubman, who until this event had no history of campaigning for corporate ethics, took a softer stance by advocating a form of social capitalism that makes profits while benefiting society as a whole.

"I'm not that radical. I don't think that [abolishing capitalism] would work, would be realistic or would make a change," he said.

"These companies in Davos will hopefully be looking more in the direction of doing something good for the planet. I think they are aware of it, but they just need to embrace it. Everyone has an ego, but it is crucial to subordinate your ego for a great task."

The Public Eye Positive Awards was launched for the first time this year and went to Colombian union leaders Jairo Quiroz Delgado and Freddy Lozano for standing up for communities against coal mining operations.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Davos

World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum (WEF) started life as the European Management Forum in 1971. Formed by German-born businessman Klaus Schwab, the forum was designed to connect European business leaders to their counterparts in the United States to find ways of boosting connections and solving problems.

It is a non-profit organisation headquartered in Geneva funded by the varying subscription fees of its members.

The forum took its current name in 1987 as it broadened its horizons to providing a platform for finding solutions to international disputes. WEF claims to have helped calm disputes between Turkey and Greece, north and south Korea, east and west Germany and in South Africa during the apartheid regime.

WEF conducts detailed global and country specific reports and other research for its members. It also hosts a number of annual meetings – the flagship being Davos at the beginning of each year.

As the forum grew in size and status in the 1990s, it attracted rising criticism from anti-globalisation groups, complaining of elitism and self-interest among participants.

The 2009 WEF in Davos will be held from January 28 to February 1.

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