Dow Chemical has adopted a sharp, defensive tone in reaction to public pressure in London demanding that the International Olympic Committee remove it from the list of sponsors for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The pressure stems from the city’s large Indian population, which has linked Dow Chemical to a 1984 gas leak at a pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, that led to the deaths of around 25,000 residents, according to Reuters. The company acquired Union Carbide, which owned the pesticide factory that was responsible for the leak, in 2001. The Indian population across the globe, as well as the Indian government and human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Change.org, have long called on Dow to make amends for the tragedy by adding more money to the settlement that Union Carbide signed in 1989.
This issue has gotten a second life in advance of the coming Summer Olympics in London. Dow Chemical signed a $100 million deal to become one of the event’s major sponsors. The Indian Olympic Association has asked the IOC to renege on its sponsorship deal with the company.
Through all of this, Dow has refused to consider pulling its sponsorship deal with the London Olympics. George Hamilton, VP of Olympic operations at Dow, said to Reuters that Dow should not be held responsible for the tragedy—that the company did not “acquire” any of the responsibility over the gas leak when it purchased Union Carbide. “For some to try and tie Dow to this, and then to use the Olympic platform to try to serve their cause, it does call for some strong words,” he said. While it would be difficult to blame Dow for sticking to its guns, the company’s decision to use such strong language in response to the pressure may just feed the media beast.
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