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Neither Nestlé nor Shell: This Is the Worst Company in the World

Worst Company Cargill
Photo: CC0 / Pexels

Child labor, deforestation, air and water pollution — the bar for the worst company in the world is set pretty high. However, an American NGO has taken a closer look at one particular company – and why it deserves this title.

Whether food and energy giants or tobacco and big pharma, there are numerous corporations whose products and production conditions place them have earned them their fair share of public criticism. One of these corporations has proven worse than Nestlé, Monsanto, Shell and Co.: The American agriculture giant “Cargill”.

In an over 50-page report recently published by the American NGO Mighty Earth, the environmental group lays out their arguments for why precisely Cargill has earned the title of “Worst Company in the World.”

“We recognize this is an audacious claim“ the report states. “There are, alas, many companies that could vie for this dubious honor.“ So, what makes Cargill the worst?

Nestlé, Walmart, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Aldi Are Just Some of Cargill’s Questionable Customers

Cargill is the largest privately-owned company in the United States. The self-proclaimed company goal is as follows:

We work alongside farmers, producers, manufacturers, retailers, governments, and other organizations to fulfill our purpose to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way, together, we create efficiencies, develop innovations, and help communities thrive.“

The corporation has established a firm foothold in the cultivation and distribution of grain, oil-bearing seeds and cotton. Cargill is also directly involved in producing animal feed, biodiesel, various food products and processed food ingredients such as enhancers and sweeteners. This is all in addition to their active role in the financial sector.

Cargill’s noteworthy customers include industry giants such as Nestlé, Mcdonald’s, Burger King, Walmart, Kellogg’s, Unilever and Danone. In reference to Cargill, Mighty Earth writes: “Today, one privately-held company just may have more power to single-handedly destroy or protect the world’s climate, water, food security, public health, and human rights than any single company in history.”

Nestlé products - Cargill Worst Company EVER.
Nestlé is only one of Cargill’s noteworthy customers. (Photo: Sven Christian Schulz / Utopia)

Serious Allegations Are Made Against Cargill

So, what sort of wrongdoing has Mighty Earth accused the agriculture corporation of within their report? The list of misconduct is lengthy and difficult to summarize. The accusations reference government and court documents, reports from other organizations and their own organization’s research. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Slave and child labor on plantations: Mighty Earth cites examples in Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and the Ivory Coast. On the Ivory Coast, children are reportedly kidnapped from Mali to be put to work on cocoa plantations. Forced to work up to 14 hours a day without pay by the plantation overseers, the children were given very little to eat and had to endure beatings. If caught attempting to flee, they would have their feet slashed with a knife and be forced to drink their urine. These cocoa beans were being produced for Cargill. Judicial proceedings against Cargill (and Nestlé) are currently being arranged.
  • Land grabbing: Cargill is under accusation of having falsely appropriated land in Columbia and Kuala Lumpur – and this in Columbia by using a trick: The country has laws in place prohibiting the concentration of land ownership. Cargill reportedly founded 36 subsidiary companies to circumvent these regulations, thus enabling the corporation to purchase more than 52,000 hectares of land.
  • Environment pollution: In 2004, a Cargill plant disposed of 65 million gallons (246 million liters) of acidic waste into a river. This has repeatedly proven a not-too-uncommon occurrence in various regions of the United States. For instance, a toxic salt mixture found its release in a nature preserve and killed fish and plants. Cargill has already faced prosecution for air pollution violations.
  • Violence against indigenous peoples: To free up land for soy plantations, producers and farmers regularly displace local indigenous communities from the forests they call home. Mighty Earth visited one such community in Paraguay. The community members spoke of violence, intimidation and harassment by the plantation owners, planes spraying pesticides over the tops of their heads and children dying from consuming contaminated water.

It’s Important to Consume Responsibly

The report underscores the importance of informed everyday customer decision-making. Avoiding Cargill products can prove even more difficult than those from Nestlé, Unilever and co.: Most Cargill products are implemented right at the beginning of the production chain. There’s simply no telling whether the wheat found in bread or sweetener used in drinks trace back to the agriculture corporation.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Support manufacturers who use and produce green products.
  • Buy organic, preferably from your local organic farmers market.
  • Avoid processed food products and cook or bake yourself with fresh, regional organic products.
  • Drink tap water and make your own lemonade or juice yourself.
  • Shop at farm stores and farmer’s markets, where you can always ask where the food comes from.
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