Media roundup: Chiquita Bananas’ oil sands boycott

January 3, 2012

On December 15, 2011 Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) received word that Chiquita Bananas was joining a Forest Ethics campaign to boycott use of fuel derived from the Canadian oil sands. In response, AEG called for Canadian consumers to avoid Chiquita Bananas, resulting in a flurry of media debate across the country.

AEG originally took a position in 2010, when other companies like Avon and Bed Bath and Beyond announced similar policies, to push back against the Forest Ethics Campaign. We took this position because California-based Forest Ethics is unfairly targeting the oil sands in a global campaign, not because the oil sands can’t withstand scrutiny. In terms of environmental performance, the oil sands are comparable to, and in some cases superior to other sources of oil around the world. In addition, Canadian producers are tightly regulated and committed to improvement over time.

A campaign to exclusively boycott fuel derived from the Canadian oil sands is patently unfair to Canada, and we urge Canadian consumers to look closely at these businesses and consider whether it’s worthwhile to do business with an organization that would participate in what amounts to a public relations stunt targeting Canadian jobs.

On  December 20th, after a series of media interviews across the country and a brewing backlash against Chiquita, AEG representatives participated in a conference call with Chiquita executives. Chiquita claimed they had no intention of avoiding energy derived from the oil sands, and would continue to do so in the future. They committed to clarifying their position in the coming days. On December 21st, AEG received a letter from Chiquita executives confirming that they had no intention of singling out “Canadian oil.”

The following is a sample of some of the media coverage of this controversy.

Oil sands lobby fires back at Chiquita

December 17, 2011

National Post

The campaign against Chiquita continues in various forms, but AEG accomplished its goal of helping Chiquita understand the ramifications of joining forces with groups opposed to the oil sands and becoming more knowledgeable about global energy supply issues in the future.

The Alberta oil sands industry is facing an unlikely adversary in Chiquita Brands International Inc., the banana company.

The Ohio-based marketer and distributor of bananas and other fresh produce said it will work with environmental organization ForestEthics to eliminate shipping of Chiquita bananas using fuel from refineries that use Canada’s oil sands.

But Chiquita said Friday its quest to rid itself of Canadian oil sands is more of a longterm goal than a more aggressive, immediate stance.

“We are not ‘banning’ or boycotting those fuels – we have asked our fuel providers to where possible find alternatives and over time eliminate the usage of those fuels de-rived for oil sands refineries,” spokesman Ed Loyd told the Financial Post in an emailed statement.

At Chiquita’s recent annual conference with trucking companies, chief executive Fernando Aguirre announced the company’s new process to ensure fuel from oil sands refineries is not being used for ground transportation of Chiquita products.

Canadian pro-oil sands groups were quick to launch a counterattack.

Ethicaloil.org, a Canadian advocacy group that says Americans should choose Canada’s ‘ethical’ oil over crude from dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, says it will launch a Chiquita boycott campaign soon.

“We will be launching a radio ad campaign urging Canadians not to buy Chiquita products. Canada’s oil is the most ethical in the world,” said Kathryn Marshall, spokeswoman for EthicalOil.org. “And Chiquita is a company with a terrible human rights record – just four years ago they were fined for giving money to terrorist groups in South America, and now they want to discriminate against Canadian oil?”

Meanwhile, the Alberta Enterprise Group is also urging Canadians to boycott international brand Chiquita Bananas in light of the oil sands decision.

“The reality is that energy derived from the Canadian oil sands is high-quality, conflictfree, heavily regulated and transparent,” said Tim Ship-ton, president of the Edmonton-based business advocacy group. “Turning your back on Canadian oil means more barrels of oil produced by the likes of Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria. A company like Chiquita, which ships bananas around the world and burns more fossil fuels than some small countries, ought to know better.”

Chiquita accounts for roughly a quarter of the U.S. banana market, and the millions of bananas it sells every day arrive at stores in diesel-fuelled and refriger-ated heavy-duty vehicles.

ForestEthics, the environmental group, says Chiquita is just one of almost “two dozen companies” that have taken action against oil sands, with 15 confirming their action publicly.

After successfully targetting Chiquita, ForestEthics is now putting pressure on Walmart and Safeway, the supermarket chains, and Dole, one of the world’s largest fruit sellers, to stop using fuel originating from oil sands.

Chiquita says reports of Canadian oil boycott are bananas

December 22, 2011

Calgary Herald

By Kelly Cryderman

CALGARY — International banana giant Chiquita appears to be softening its stance on using fuel from Canadian oilsands, saying that “misinformation” has been circulated by certain groups.

In a letter sent to the Alberta Enterprise Group dated Dec. 21, Chiquita Brands International senior vice-president Manuel Rodriguez said his company “is not boycotting or banning” Canadian oil.

“Today Chiquita sources, and will continue to source, Canadian oil,” the letter states.

The letter also says that over the last week there’s “been a significant amount of misinformation circulated by certain groups regarding our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, specifically related to use of fuel. While we have commitments to reduce our carbon footprint across a range of activities, press reports have inaccurately stated that we have boycotted or banned Canadian oil. We are concerned about this too, and want to take this opportunity to set the record straight.”

But in November, the same Chiquita vice-president wrote a letter to the U.S.-based environmental group ForestEthics, saying the company will avoid “where possible, fuels from tar sands refineries and to adopt a strategy of continuous improvement towards the elimination of those fuels.”

The Edmonton-based Alberta Enterprise Group, a business lobby organization, called this month for Canadians to counter-boycott Chiquita. Group spokesman David MacLean said the newest letter, along with messages to other Canadian trade organizations, has satisfied his group that Chiquita has dropped its “anti-oil-sand” stance.

“It’s pretty mealy-mouthed. But for us, as a business advocacy organization, it’s good enough, it satisfies our requirement that they do not unfairly target the Canadian oil sands,” MacLean said.

Environmental groups have long expressed concerns about the rising greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands, along with the heavy impacts on water, land and wildlife.

Banana company flip-flops on Alberta oil

Edmonton Sun

December 22, 2011

Chiquita is softening its position on Alberta’s booming oilsands industry one month after publicly opposing it, but there’s still work to be done.

That’s according to Tim Shipton, president of the Alberta Enterprise Group.

He says the latest letter from the banana producer makes it clear the company is not boycotting Canadian oil — contrary to a Nov. 21 letter stating it’s working to eliminate its use of “tarsands” oil.

“We are pleased that Chiquita has taken steps to clarify their position — that they have backed away from the ForestEthics campaign, but Chiquita still has a lot of work to do to rebuild trust with Canadians,” Shipton said.

He says thousands of Canadians have mobilized against the banana company and they must be assured it’s not targeting Alberta’s oilsands industry.

“Part of Chiquita’s original position, which has been underplayed, is how impractical — if not impossible — it is for a company like Chiquita…to try to untangle itself from any individual fuel source,” he said.

“It was a very impractical effort in the first source, one that smacked of rhetoric more than reality, but we took it very seriously.”

ForestEthics released the Nov. 21 letter from Manuel Rodriguez, a corporate affairs officer with Chiquita Brands, stating the company is working to eliminate “tarsands” fuels in its supply chain.

“Accordingly, we are committed to directing our transportation providers to avoid, where possible, fuels from tarsands refineries and to adopt a strategy of continuous improvement towards the elimination of those fuels,” Rodriguez said in the letter.

In a letter addressed to Shipton dated Dec. 21, Rodriguez said Chiquita is not boycotting or banning Canadian oil.

“Today Chiquita sources, and will continue to source Canadian oil,” Rodriguez said.

Shipton said oilsands operators share in the efforts to become more environmentally responsible.

“We’d much rather work with them as opposed to being engaged in these public campaigns of tit for tat,” Shipton said.

ForestEthics could not be reached for comment.