HUMAN RIGHTS hrw.orgDefending Human Rights Worldwide

Backgrounders FrenchSpanishRussianKoreanArabicHebrewspacer
RSSPortugueseGermanChinesePersianMore Languagesspacer

Olympic Corporate Sponsors: Rhetoric and Reality

Beginning in September 2007, Human Rights Watch wrote to all 12 “TOP” Olympic sponsors to encourage them to address human rights abuses taking place as a result of the Beijing Games, with targeted and achievable asks. The suggested steps are in conformity both with the sponsors’ support for the Olympic Charter and with their own policies on corporate social responsibility or human rights. In addition to these 12 worldwide sponsors, Human Rights Watch has also written to Olympic supplier Microsoft and to NBC, which controls the broadcasting franchise.

Excerpts from the companies’ policies on commitment to social responsibility and their comments on China, the Olympics, and human rights follow below.  
1. Atos Origin (France)  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
“Everyone at Atos Origin understands the importance of working in harmony with our environment in today’s world [...] We acknowledge that we have a corporate responsibility and commitment to the communities in the countries where we work and where our clients, partners and suppliers are present. This is not something we teach or demand, it is simply something our people do and want to do.”  
– From Atos Origin's website  
What Atos has said about human rights and the Olympics:  
Atos Origin has not publicly commented on China’s failure to uphold the human rights commitments it made when it was awarded the Beijing Olympics, or on the killings and continuing crackdown in Tibet.  
2. Coca-Cola (US), also a sponsor of the Torch Relay  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
"At The Coca-Cola Company, we believe that an unwavering commitment to human rights is fundamental to the way we conduct our business."  
– Neville Isdell, chairman and CEO (quoted in Business Wire, August 23, 2007)  
What Coca-Cola has said about human rights and the Olympics:  
“While it would be an inappropriate role for sponsors to comment on the political situation of individual nations, as the longest standing sponsor of the Olympic movement, we firmly believe that the Olympics are a force for good.”  
– Quoted in The Washington Post, March 22, 2008  
3. General Electric / NBC (US)  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
“GE seeks to advance human rights by leading by example – through our interactions with customers and suppliers, the products we offer and our relationships with communities and governments. Given our size and reach, this is a massive undertaking. That is why we remain steadily committed to upholding the human rights values embedded within our integrity policy, The Spirit & The Letter, and our Statement of Principles on Human Rights. [...] GE, as a business enterprise, promotes the advancement of fundamental human rights. We support the principles contained in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), mindful that it is primarily addressed to nations but understanding that business has an important role to play. GE has joined with other companies to find practical ways of applying within the business community the broad principles established in the Declaration.”  
– From GE's website  
What GE has said about human rights and the Olympics:  
“We’re proud to be a sponsor and our plans aren’t changing. Our position overall is that the Olympics are a force for good.”  
– GE spokeswoman Deirdre Latour in a statement (quoted in Press & Sun Bulletin, April 6, 2008)  
4. John Hancock (US), subsidiary of the Canadian company Manulife  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
“We value our good name and strive to maintain high standards of integrity in everything we do. Operating in an ethical manner is essential to our success. Our customers, investors and other stakeholders rely on us to be honest and fair. We must behave ethically in the communities where we operate in order to maintain the confidence of all of our stakeholders and ultimately to keep their business. It is in our best interest to set high standards for ourselves at all times and to align ourselves with agents and representatives, suppliers and business associates who have similar high standards of business conduct.”  
– From John Hancock's website  
What John Hancock’s parent company Manulife has said about human rights and the Olympics:  
“We share your horror of the genocide that has been taking place in Darfur, and your desire to see the humanitarian crisis there resolved as quickly as possible. As an Olympic sponsor, we firmly believe in the spirit of the Olympic movement, and do not feel that it is our place to make political demands of our hosts.”  
– Robert Cook, senior executive vice-president at Manulife (quoted in The Globe and Mail, April 9, 2008)  
5. Johnson & Johnson (US)  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
“We are responsible to the communities in which we live and work and to the world community as well. We must be good citizens – support good works and charities and bear our fair share of taxes. We must encourage civic improvements and better health and education. We must maintain in good order the property we are privileged to use, protecting the environment and natural resources.”  
– From Johnson & Johnson's website  
What Johnson and Johnson has said about human rights and the Olympics:  
“Johnson & Johnson is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people around the world. We do that best by developing products that help people live healthier lives.”  
– From statement (quoted in The Independent, February 15, 2008)  
6. Kodak (US)  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
“We believe that doing well by shareholders also means doing right by customers, employees, neighbors, and suppliers. With that in mind, Kodak operates its facilities, and designs and markets its products and services, not only to increase shareholder value, but also to promote development of the individual, the well being of the community, and respect for the environment.” Corporate Responsibility Principles include:  
1. Kodak conducts its business activities to high ethical standards.  
2. Kodak respects internationally accepted legal principles, and obeys the laws of countries in which it does business.  
3. Kodak is committed to sound corporate governance. In this regard, the Company’s diverse, independent Board of Directors has adopted publicly available governance principles.  
– From Kodak website  
What Kodak has said about human rights and the Olympics:  
Kodak has not publicly commented on China’s failure to uphold the human rights commitments it made when it was awarded the Beijing Olympics, or on the killings and continuing crackdown in Tibet.  
7. Lenovo (US / China), also a sponsor of the Torch Relay  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
“Just as Lenovo is dedicated to providing innovative technologies, the company is equally devoted to ensuring that its products, employees, sites and suppliers are following the commitments it has made to socially responsible business practices. Lenovo is committed to the highest standards of integrity and responsibility when working with all stakeholders.”  
– From Lenovo's website  
What Lenovo has said about human rights and the Olympics:  
In a statement, Lenovo said the company is following news reports from Tibet “with concern and regret” and noted that “the situation involves a longstanding dispute and political forces beyond the control of Olympic sponsors, and it would exist even in the absence of the Olympic Games.”  
– From statement (quoted in The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2008)  
“There is no question that the Olympic Games are a powerful force for peace. We believe that the games will focus on all the good that is being brought to China, and we are proud to support that.”  
– Robert J. Page, Lenovo’s Olympics public relations manager (quoted by the Associated Press, March 20, 2008)  
8. McDonald’s (US)  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
“Corporate responsibility is very important to any success that we have [....] For us doing the right things and doing things right is natural. As we become bigger we have more responsibility – and certainly it’s integral to how our customers view our business. In all the things we do that touch our customers and touch our communities, we are the leaders, particularly in our industry. Everybody looks to us to provide that leadership and to challenge the way we go about getting it done. So not only do we have a responsibility to our customers and our communities and our own business model, we have some accountability and responsibility to the rest of the industry.”  
– Jim Skinner, chief executive officer (from McDonald’s website)  
What McDonald’s has said about human rights and the Olympics:  
“Concerning political issues, these need to be resolved by governments and international bodies such as the United Nations where they can most effectively drive discussions, diplomacy and help speed solutions.”  
– From a statement in response to protests in Tibet (quoted in The Irish Times, April 3, 2008)  
9. Omega / Swatch Group (Switzerland)  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
None found on either the Omega or Swatch company websites.  
What Omega/Swatch Group said about human rights and the Olympics:  
“We are partners of the athletes and the [International Olympic Committee], not of governments, which is why we were present during the boycotted games of 1980 and 1984.”  
– Nicolas Hayek, CEO of the Swatch Group (quoted in Brand Republic, March 14, 2008)  
“It is our policy not to get involved in politics because it would not serve the cause of the sport which is one most noble human endeavors for creating understanding and peace all over the world.”  
– Nicolas Hayek, CEO of Swatch Group (quoted by the Associated Press, March 11, 2008)  
10. Panasonic / Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (Japan)  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
“When carrying out business activities globally, it goes without saying that we must comply with laws, regulations and ethics relating to employment and labor in each country where we do business. The fundamental polices of the entire Panasonic [sic] are not only to respect basic human rights, namely, the prohibition of discrimination, the right to freedom of association, the guarantee of the right to organize, the guarantee of the right of collective bargaining, and the prohibition of forced labor, but also to practice appropriate recruitment and labor management based on the laws and regulations, labor practices, and labor-management relations of each country.”  
– From Panasonic’s website  
What they have said about human rights and the Olympics:  
“Support for the Olympics is independent of local contingencies.”  
– A spokesperson for Panasonic (quoted in The Ottawa Citizen, February 20, 2008)  
11. Samsung (South Korea), also a sponsor of the Torch Relay  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
“We must also continually remind ourselves of our responsibilities to our customers and business partners, not to mention to the communities that have made Samsung’s global success possible. We must strengthen our relationships with existing business partners and nurture new collaborative efforts. And we must continue our commitment, through various social efforts and programs, to contribute to the prosperity of people all over the world in the hope for a better society.”  
– Kun-Hee Lee, chairman (from Samsung’s website)  
What Samsung has said about human rights and the Olympics:  
“We believe the Olympic Games are not the place for demonstrations and we hope that all people attending the Games recognize the importance of this.”  
– From a statement (quoted by the Associated Press, March 19, 2008)  
12. Visa (US)  
Company policy on social responsibility:  
“Visa Inc. is committed to maintaining the highest standards of professional and personal conduct and to acting with openness and transparency with regard to its business, leadership and corporate governance practices. These principles are critical to earning and retaining the trust of our financial institution clients, merchants and cardholders. They are vital also to securing the respect and trust of other key stakeholders and interested parties, including employees, investors, suppliers, government officials and the public .... Beyond its responsibilities to its principal stakeholders, Visa recognizes its constructive role in the broader global community.”  
– From Visa’s website  
What Visa has said about human rights and the Olympics:  
Visa has not publicly commented on China’s failure to uphold the human rights commitments it made when it was awarded the Beijing Olympics or on the killings and crackdown in Tibet.

Suggest This Page to a Friend
Your Email (required)
Your Friend's Name
Friend's Email (required)
Email addresses are not stored.
Your Message

Enter Security Code
(case sensitive)

Please read the HRW Privacy Policy

HRW Logo Contribute to Human Rights Watch

Home | About Us | News Releases | Publications | Info by Country | Global Issues | Campaigns | Community | Bookstore | Film Festival | Search | Site Map | Contact Us | Press Contacts | Privacy Policy

© Copyright 2006, Human Rights Watch    350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor    New York, NY 10118-3299    USA