Mitsubishi Moves, a Bit

MULTINATIONAL MONITOR
APRIL 1996 VOLUME 17 NUMBER 4

THE FIVE-YEAR BOYCOTT of Mitsubishi Corporation for its alleged destruction of world rainforests is yielding results.

In return for Rainforest Action Network (RAN), the San Francisco-based group that is spearheading the boycott, agreeing to halt civil disobedience at Mitsubishi's auto shows, Mitsubishi Motor Sales America and Mitsubishi Electric America have paid Rocky Mountain Institute of Snowmass, Colorado $200,000 to conduct a series of studies on how to make forestry more sustainable.

RAN and executives from Mitsubishi Japan are meeting periodically in an effort to resolve the boycott, which has spread onto 22 campuses across the United States.

The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) has convened a panel of experts to conduct "the most fundamental study to date of forest-related practices and alternatives that are both sustainable and profitable," according to RMI president and executive director Hunter Lovins.

Even if Mitsubishi were "wildly successful in cutting down all the trees, in the end, they would have to do something else," says Lovins. "This effort is to point out to them sooner rather than later that there are other things to do while there are still some forests left."

Lovins sees the Institute's role as a neutral one. "We are not working on behalf of Mitsubishi or RAN," she explains.

Despite the Institute's efforts and the private meetings between RAN and Mitsubishi, RAN continues to call for a total boycott of all products or services from Mitsubishi companies, including Mitsubishi automobiles, trucks, bicycles, televisions, VCRs, fax machines, microchips, Nikon cameras, Kirin beer, Value-Rent-A-Car and the Bank of California. RAN claims that Mitsubishi logs or imports timber from the Philippines, Malaysia, Papau New Guinea, Bolivia, Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, Canada, Siberia and the United States.

Steve Wechselblatt, vice president of Mitsubishi International Corporation, says RAN's claims about the company "are not valid." He explains, "We have rainforest operations only in one place -- in Brazil. And it's not a rainforest logging operation. The one in Brazil is the only one we have in the world."

Wechselblatt admits that the company is also a trading company. "But it handles less than 0.03 percent of tropical timber used around the world," he says. "Our trade is not really great. We are not the largest company that trades tropical timber. ... We are not even in the top five."

-- Russell Mokhiber

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