Christmas cheer: 4 more Swiss towns donate Glencore tax revenues back to developing countries

Christmas Market

Christmas market at Einsiedeln, Switzerland. Photo:http://www.flickr.com/photos/juanflauta/3089558161/

When I think of a Swiss Christmas, all sorts of iconic festive scenes come to mind: big Christmas trees illuminating town squares, hot chocolate by the fire, skiing in the Alps. This Christmas however, a group of Swiss villages were brought together by more than their local Christmas market.

Earlier this year we told you about the Swiss town of Hedingen, which voted to send some of the tax revenue made from suspected corrupt business practices back to the countries where the profits were made.

Glencore Xstrata, a mining company based in Switzerland, has been accused of tax evasion, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation. Feeling uncomfortable about receiving tax revenues potentially earned from such unethical practices, five separate Swiss communities have voted to donate their portion of Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg’s redistributed taxes.

Though some of these communities are facing their own financial challenges, the towns of Hausen, Mettmenstetten, Affoltern am Albis, and Obfelden will be joining Hedingen by donating their portion of tax revenues.  Each town will donate their percentage to charities, environmental projects, and social initiatives in both South America and Africa, where Glencore earns a significant portion of its profits. Combined, these five small villages are contributing a total of $505,000.

Not only will their donation benefit the lives of the recipients, but their bold decision might cause both Glencore and other extractives companies to reconsider how they conduct business in developing countries. Daniel Hitzig, a spokesman for a group of Swiss development groups, explained that the vote is “a very strong sign that people do care about what is being done in the name of Swiss companies.”

These Swiss citizens saw that though they live far from the victims of Glencore’s alleged corruption, their proximity to its headquarters provides them with an essential role in changing the future of the company’s decisions abroad.

ONE is campaigning for improved transparency laws to expose the governments and companies that rob developing countries of billions every year, through illicit financial flows.  Tell European leaders to crack down on phantom firms, the anonymous companies that allow criminals to hide their money and fuel corruption.