Tag Archives: Mishor Adumim

An insider’s account of the Sainsbury’s AGM

Sainsbury's - Taste the Indifference

Sainsbury’s – Taste the Indifference

Corporate Watch were inside the Sainsbury’s AGM yesterday. Here’s an account of what happened:

Campaigners protesting outside the Sainsbury’s AGM at the QE2 conference centre in Westminster yesterday called for the company to cease working with companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Indifference’ campaign has been pressuring the company for almost two years, calling on them to follow the lead of the Cooperative Group and cease trading with companies operating in Israel’s settlements. Taste the Indifference has been holding monthly days of action where groups across the UK picket Sainsbury’s branches or occupy stores.

On the morning of the AGM, Corporate Watch had published an ‘open letter’ to Sainsbury’s shareholders.

The AGM saw Mike Coupe replace Justin King as Sainsbury’s CEO. The ‘Taste the Indifference’ campaign has written a letter to Mike Coupe signed by representatives of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG), the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Boycott Israel Network, and the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions calling for the company to cease trading with companies that operate in the settlements. The letter is also signed by several Members of Parliament and the European Parliament, as well as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe.

Before the AGM, Sainsbury’s Company Secretary Mike Fallowfield came outside to accept a petition from protesters. 6,500 signatures have been collected in support of the aims of the campaign, as well as 2000 postcards.

The AGM began at 10.30. Outgoing CEO Justin King spoke enthusiastically about the setting up of more Sainsbury’s stores and the expansion of existing ones. He also said “Our values are a unique point of difference”. However, many of the shareholders present questioned these values.

Several people had purchased shares in order to tell the board that they did not want Sainsbury’s to expand in their area. One woman from the village of Southam said that local people did not want a new Sainsbury’s store, as there was already a large supermarket in the village, and pledged to boycott it should it open. Another group from Bristol was campaigning against the building of a Sainsbury’s on the site of a local war memorial.

Three shareholders asked questions to the board about Palestine. The first asked:

“The governments of 17 members of the European Union, including the UK, have published warnings urging their citizens to refrain from engaging in business, economic activity and investment in settlements or bodies connected to the illegal Israeli settlements. These governments state that business relations with entities operating in settlements are inherently risky, from an economic, reputational and human rights perspective.

“In the UK, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth and Foreign Affairs has made it clear that the British Government expects British companies to treat the risk of contributing to gross human rights abuses through their operations as an issue of legal compliance, and to positively adopt policies to identify, monitor and prevent risks to human rights.

“The Base Code of the Ethical Trading Initiative, of which Sainsbury’s is a full member, also states that retailers must respect basic rights in their supply chain. What steps, therefore, does Sainsbury’s intend to take to comply with these government guidelines with respect to its trade with companies that operate in illegal Israeli settlements?”

David Tyler, non-executive director replied for the Sainsbury’s board:

“We are well aware of this issue, we monitor and audit with regard to the companies in our supply chain. We can’t find any evidence that those companies have done anything wrong. I think you are asking a wider question for us to boycott the products of any company sourcing from the settlements. We do not source from any company sourcing from settlements in the West Bank in our food and non-food products.”

However, Another activist shareholder pointed out that Sainsbury’s stocked Sodastream products and that Sodastream have their main manufacturing facility in the settlement of Mishor Adumim in the West Bank. The board replied that Sainsbury’s did not source own brand products from settlements but that Sodastream products would simply have to be labelled as such if they were manufactured in a settlement. Apparently, Sodastream has promised that their labelling policy has changed and that its products will be labelled as such in the future.

A third shareholder asked: “A recent report by Israeli research group Who Profits? shows that Sainsbury’s suppliers such as Mehadrin and Edom are deeply involved Israel’s policy of forcibly displacing Palestinian farmers from their land and constructing settlements on occupied land in violation of international law.

“The Who Profits? report also documents how these companies routinely lie about the origin of their produce and market products from illegal settlements as ‘Made in Israel’.

“How can you trust Israeli companies such as Mehadrin to act in ways that allows Sainsbury’s to live up to its promises about behaving in an ethical way? Given the growing body of evidence showing that they employ routine deception, what assessment has Sainsbury’s made about whether its Israeli suppliers are honest about the true origin of their produce?”

At the end of the AGM the Sainsbury’s board was inundated with more questions from shareholders about the ethics of their business.

Sainsbury’s – stop sourcing from occupation profiteers

Sainsbury’s claims that they have no evidence that there is wrongdoing within Sainsbury’s supply chains but Corporate Watch and others have presented ample evidence that Arava, Edom and Mehadrin have a track record of sourcing from settlements where child labour is employed and workers are paid less than the Israeli minimum wage.

In our open letter to Sainsbury’s, published yesterday, we argued: “It is not enough for Sainsbury’s to claim that they do not source goods from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, they should cease sourcing from companies that are profiting from the seizure of Palestinian land and a captive workforce living under occupation. By sourcing products from Arava, Mehadrin and Edom, Sainsbury’s is supporting the settler economy and acting against the wishes of the Palestinian people. We are calling on Sainsbury’s to follow the lead of the Cooperative Supermarket and refuse to buy products from these companies.

The ‘Taste the Indifference’ campaign made a press statement, which you can read here.

To find out how to oppose supermarket developments in your area see Corporate Watch’s ‘What’s Wrong With Supermarkets?’ and our campaign guide to opposing supermarket developments, ‘Checkout Chuckout’. To find out how to research developments in your area see our new do-it-yourself handbook for ‘Investigating Companies’.

Ecostream campaign victorious

Brighton's Ecostream store closes after two years of concerted campaigning

Brighton’s Ecostream store closes after two years of concerted campaigning

Brighton’s Ecostream store has closed down after a two year campaign of demonstrations, street actions and direct action.

Ecostream issued the following statement this morning: “SodaStream confirms that the EcoStream store, located on Western Road in Brighton, closed earlier this week. Following the two year test period, the company has decided to focus its business efforts on other channels, specifically on retail distribution partnerships.”

John Lewis have also informed Corporate Watch today that they will no longer be stocking Sodastream products. According to John Lewis’ Senior Press officer: “John Lewis has stocked Sodastream for the past four years but in light of declining sales we’ve taken the decision to no longer stock the range”. Campaigners have demonstrated repeatedly outside John Lewis stores calling for the chain to discontinue its Sodastream range and for consumers to boycott Sodastream products.

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Trade Unions join protest against SodaStream

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Trade Unions at the picket of EcoStream. Picture by Brighton and Hove PSC, May 2014

Members from eight UK trade unions joined the long running weekly picket of SodaStream’s only UK shop, EcoStream in Brighton, on Saturday May 3. Members from The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), National Union of Journalists (NUJ), University and College Union (UCU), National Union of  Teachers (NUT), Solidarity Federation (SolFed), Unison, Unite and GMB all showed up to show solidarity with Palestinians workers living under occupation. There were also representatives from Brighton Benefits Campaign and Defend the NHS present. Continue reading

Oxfam’s PR firm helping to greenwash Sodastream

Sodastream's factory in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mishor Adunim - Photo take by Corporate Watch, 2010

Sodastream’s factory in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mishor Adunim – Photo taken by Corporate Watch, 2010

UPDATE 09/04/2014 – Response from Oxfam America: Oxfam claims that Fenton does not do any work for SodaStream at this time. It had a one-year relationship with the company that ended in 2012. Oxfam did not begin to work with Fenton until 2013.” Since this article was written Fenton Communications have removed the Sodasteam logo from their website.

If Fenton’s relationship with Sodastream ended in 2012 it begs the question: why was the Sodastream logo listed on the company website last week?

Here is the original article:

There has been a lot of negative media attention in the last few months on Sodastream, an Israeli fizzy drinks company with a factory in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumim. A partnership between Oxfam and Scarlett Johansson ended recently after an international campaign put pressure on the charity to end its relationship with Johansson because she was undertaking ongoing work for Sodastream.

However, a high profile US public relations (PR) firm, which boasts of its “ethical business practices”, is providing services to both Sodastream and Oxfam America. Fenton Communications states on its site that “We do not take on clients that we do not believe in ourselves” and claims that it works “for companies and foundations advocating social change”. Fenton’s corporate social responsibility rhetoric and greenwash doesn’t bear more than a few minutes of scrutiny. The PR firm has a client list which includes large multinationals such as General Mills and Unilever. General Mills jointly own the General Mills (Pillsbury) plant in the Atarot settlement Industrial zone, while Unilever only pulled out of the Barkan settlement industrial zone after years of pressure from the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Both companies are also responsible for selling, marketing and lobbying hard for processed foods globally, which are damaging to people’s health. One of Fenton’s other clients is Oxfam America.

In response to the public campaign about Scarlett Johansson, Oxfam stated: “While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador… Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.” Why then does Oxfam America find it acceptable to work with a PR firm that includes Sodastream on its client list? Continue reading

“They destroyed our lives and then gave a few people a job. It is nothing”: Some unanswered questions for SodaStream

As we have previously reported Corporate Watch was recently denied a requested visit to the SodaStream factory in the illegal West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim.

Despite the company’s insistence that anyone who visits the premises will find it to be a force for good in the area, it was not willing to let critics challenge this assertion for themselves. In a move that seems to go against its own self proclaimed eco-friendliness  SodaStream recently paid the expenses of local Brighton journalist John Keenan when he flew over from the UK to see the factory, yet they would not let researchers already in the West Bank in. Brighton is the location of EcoStream, SodaStream’s first own brand shop in the UK, and it has been met by weekly boycott demonstrations since its opening in the middle of 2012. As part of its PR strategy, SodaStream has also invited the Brighton MP Mike Weatherley to the factory. Weatherley had already previously issued strong worded statements against the protests and in support of SodaStream.

Soda Club 10

Entrance to the SodaStream factory in the illegal settlement Mishor Adumim.

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Bezeq operating in Kfar Adumim settlement

Bezeq infrastructure in Kfar Binyamin settlement

Bezeq infrastructure in Kfar Adumim settlement

Activists campaigning for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli militarism, occupation and apartheid have asked for information about the Bezeq telephone company’s involvement in Israel’s illegal settlements.

On Saturday 12th January 2013 Corporate Watch photographed a piece of Bezeq telephone infrastructure in Kfar Adumim settlement. Kfar Adumim is situated above the Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar close to the Mishor Adumim industrial zone. Settlement expansion in Kfar Adumim is threatening the existence of Khan al Ahmar, who are currently fighting eviction in the Israeli courts.

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Settlement expansion in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone

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Aerial view of Mishor Adumim

During the last four years Corporate Watch have made numerous visits to the settlement industrial zone of Mishor Adumim with the aim of documenting the companies working there.  We have also been highlighting the impact the expansion of the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim is having on the Palestinian communities living in the area and tried to contextualise the information to inform international BDS action. One of the biggest companies trading from Mishor Adumim is the Israeli carbonated drinks manufacturers SodaStream. The company has met with pressure from the international BDS movement for a number of years as a result of their occupation profiteering. Continue reading

Dear Corporation: A response to SodaStream

As Corporate Watch has previously reported (see here) SodaStream, an Israeli carbonated beverages manufacturer, has recently opened a shop called EcoStream in Brighton. SodaStream products are also stocked by major retailers such as Robert Dyas, John Lewis, Argos, Comet, Lakeland, Conran and some Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda stores. The Brighton shop is their first in the UK, the location was chosen because of the city’s green credentials. Continue reading