Pulp Inc. The corporate power of the pulp and paper industry

26 Apr

A new occasional series in the WRM Bulletin, profiling a series of actors in the pulp and paper industry.

By Chris Lang. Published in WRM Bulletin 105, April 2006.

This month WRM is launching a new occasional section to the bulletin: “Pulp Inc“. The series will consist of profiles of companies involved in the pulp and paper industry.

In order to campaign effectively on the industry (and certainly before NGOs start talking about collaborating or cooperating with companies), we need to take a careful look at how the industry is structured and the nature of the companies involved in the industry: what they are and what they are not.

Corporations are becoming increasingly powerful. This is true of all corporations, not just those involved in producing pulp and paper. But the pulp and paper industry provides one example of how corporations are attempting to wield their power over governments.

In Uruguay, for example, the government is unable to order the Finnish Metsa Botnia to halt construction of its pulp mill in Fray Bentos, because of an agreement that the Uruguayan government signed with the government of Finland: “Agreement with the Government of Finland regarding the promotion and protection of investment”. In effect this is an agreement with Botnia. Under the terms of the agreement, Botnia is assured of the constant support of the Uruguayan government. The agreement even forces the government to pay compensation to Botnia for any losses, caused by, among other things, demonstrations.

“The most important conflict of the twenty-first century will be the battle between corporations and democracy,” writes George Monbiot in the foreword to a book about corporate influence in Europe. “As companies tighten their grip on national governments and international institutions, ordinary people will discover that, unless they are prepared to confront big business, their residual democratic rights will disappear.”

“The critical weapon in this battle will be information: those who know most will win,” says Monbiot. “Our power lies in our ability to expose the machinations of society’s corporate enemies, to embarrass the governments which have surrendered to them, and to use our knowledge to wage incisive, informed campaigns against both the companies themselves and, even more importantly, the institutional failures which have allowed them to hold sway.”

The aim of this series is to provide an insight into how pulp and paper corporations work and to help explain how and why these firms are always in conflict with local communities.

The series “Pulp Inc” starts off with a profile of Mondi. WRM would be pleased to receive contributions of profiles of other pulp and paper companies.

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