Minister attacks Shell's oil and Adidas' jerseys
UPDATE: Germany’s development minister Gerd Müller attacked the production practices of Shell and Adidas on Tuesday, suggesting indirectly that German consumers should boycott some of the companies' products. Adidas has hit back with a furious response.
During a speech on Tuesday to the Berlin Chambers of Commerce and Industry (IHK), Müller denounced Shell’s poor regard for the environment, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported.
He said that during a recent trip to Nigeria, he witnessed the oil production methods. "If you went to the Niger Delta and saw the standard of oil extraction, none of you would use the petrol stations of that oil firm," he said.
He said the company prioritized profit over concern for the environment. “That is unacceptable,” Müller added. Shell is the major oil extractor in the Niger Delta but Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Agip and Total are also active in the country.
Environmental activists have long protested Shell’s oil production in the Niger Delta. Amnesty International and other groups released a report in August that stated the oil company had done little to clean up pollution from its oil production. Such production has left at least 10 communities in the area with contaminated drinking water, according to the report.
A United Nations assessment of the pollution in 2011 estimated that it could take up to 30 years to clean up.
Shell has blamed the spills on local villagers who drill holes into the pipelines to steal oil, leaving the pipelines open and causing spills. The company’s figures on the frequency of these incidents have been contested by Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth International.
Müller also denounced the practices of Adidas. He said that while the official German national football team jersey, made by Adidas, costs €84, “the seamstress in Bangladesh gets 15 cents”.
"Sixteen-hour days, five cents an hour, six days work for women - it comes out at a wage that is not enough for one person to live on, let alone a family," he said. "These jerseys, these suits, these shirts - you really want to wear them?"
He compared the working conditions in Bangladesh to Germany in the 18th and 19th centuries.
But a spokeswoman for Adidas told The Local in a statement that the company was "extremely baffled" by Müller's "false accusations" against the company.
Adidas also said its German football jerseys are made in China and not Bangladesh, adding it had won recognition in China as an environmentally-friendly firm.
The company also invited the minister to meet with them to learn more about their business practices, the statement said.
About 200 business people came to hear Müller discuss Germany's role in pushing for better social and environmental standards worldwide.
During the speech, Müller called for sustainable globalization, warning that the desire for everyone to reach the same standard of living as people in Germany enjoy would put huge pressure on the environment.
The Local has contacted Shell for comment.