At best, Cargill’s 2012 Corporate Responsibility Report can be described as an optimistic view of America’s largest private company’s impact on the planet. At worst, as the Rainforest Action Network wrote, Cargill’s report is “a fancy PR dance” around a business model that “relies on devastating natural systems and communities for profit.”
Strong words, but it’s easy to see how one might come to this conclusion.
Cargill claims to be a “responsible global citizen” committed to “reducing [its] environmental impact.” Yet, here in California, the company has spent millions of dollars trying to pave over as many as 1,436 acres of restorable San Francisco Bay salt ponds in Redwood City, destroying habitat for more than 20,000 migratory shorebirds in order to build thousands of houses below sea level. Not only are Cargill’s plans irresponsible – they make up the largest current threat to San Francisco Bay.
Cargill’s report also highlights what it calls its work “protecting marine environments,” “preserving rivers,” and “supplying clean, safe water.” Yet here in the United States, Cargill has been fined repeatedly for spilling toxins into San Francisco Bay, been called on the carpet for making the Illinois River one of the most polluted waterways in the country, and are still cleaning up a 65 million gallon acidic wastewater spill in Tampa Bay, described by local press as “one of the worst local environmental disasters in years.”
Cargill says it wants to be the global leader in “protecting the planet” and “conserving scarce resources.” Surely if there is any place to demonstrate that leadership, it is here in San Francisco Bay. Urban sprawl, massive fill and diking have already reduced the Bay’s size by one third. Now that Cargill is finished making salt in Redwood City, it should ensure a lasting legacy of restoring the Bay, not filling it.