Getting serious on ESG in overseas operations

The following article appeared in the December issue of Taiwan Business TOPICS, the magazine of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan.

On October 31, a group assembled at an industrial plant in Point Comfort, Texas, to protest an ongoing horror story. Led by activist Diane Wilson, representatives of the International Monitor Formosa Alliance (IMFA) began a hunger strike to demand action against the company after which their movement was named – Formosa Plastics Group (FPG).

The demonstration was organized to highlight the devastating pollution caused by the Taiwan-headquartered company’s subsidiary, Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, in Vietnam in 2016 and the subsequent failure to adequately compensate the victims of the disaster.

It was just the latest action in an unrelenting, five-decade campaign by Wilson, a fourth-generation shrimper whose high-profile protests include disrupting the FPG’s annual shareholders meeting in 2009.

Across four coastal provinces in Vietnam, marine life and the fishing communities that depend on it have been ravaged by a flow of toxic gunk, spewed from a pipe connecting to Formosa Ha Tinh’s plant in the Vung Ang Economic Zone. Poisoned by chemicals, including cyanide, an estimated 70 tons of dead fish washed up on Vietnamese shores, with around 450 hectares of coral reef deemed severely contaminated.

Formosa Ha Tinh admitted to the pollution in 2020 and agreed to a US$500 million settlement with the Vietnamese authorities. The affected communities reportedly saw little of that sum.

“To this day, adequate compensation for victims is yet to be seen,” reads a statement from the IMFA, which advocates for fishermen, human rights, and the environment. The NGO was formed in 2022 by Wilson’s environmental group, San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper.

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