Most Olympic Sponsors Flunk Darfur Report Card

More than half of the top 19 Beijing Olympic sponsors failed in a report card released Monday by an anti-genocide group.

Dream for Darfur, a partner of the Save Darfur Coalition, issued the report card that rated corporate sponsors on their social responsibility in addressing China's role in the Darfur genocide. Accompanying the report card is a report titled, And Now…Not a Word from Our Sponsors.

"For corporations to live up to their own statements of 'social responsibility' and their duty as Olympic sponsors, companies have a special obligation to take action on Darfur before the Games begin next August," said New York-based Dream for Darfur.

China is Sudan's strongest business and political partner as the biggest buyer of Sudan's oil and also Sudan's biggest foreign trade partner. The Chinese government also sells weapons to the Khartoum government, inciting international condemnation for fueling the violence in Darfur.

Human rights group have tried to use the 2008 Olympic Games as leverage to press China to use its influence to end the Darfur crisis.

More than 2.5 million people have been displaced and some 200,000 people killed in Darfur due to violence instigated by Arab militias known as janjaweed since 2003. Khartoum is widely accused by both Darfurians and the international community of unleashing the pro-government janjaweed militias on Darfurians after rebels from ethnic African tribes in the region rose up against the central government.

Over the course of 16 weeks – May to October 2007 – Dream for Darfur asked 19 Olympic sponsors to take specific steps to communicate to China the problematic nature of its role in Darfur. The group then graded each company – all 12 Worldwide Olympic Partners and seven Western-based sponsors and suppliers – on its response to the Darfur crisis in the report card released.

The most points were given to companies that communicated with Beijing and/or the International Olympic Committee (IOC) their concern that the Games and their sponsorship might be tarnished by association with China's Darfur policy.

Report card results indicate that most 2008 Olympic sponsors were unwilling to take public or private action on the issue.

"Sponsors are supporting China's efforts to position itself in glowing terms on the world stage. But they are silent about China's role in the Darfur genocide, and in their silence, they are complicit," said Jill Savitt, Executive Director of Dream for Darfur, in a statement.

Internationally recognized consumer brands such as Samsung, Kodak, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson were among the 16 out of 19 top Olympic sponsors that either failed or received a "D" by the Dream for Darfur report card.

The report card grades break down as follows:

• 13 Fs: Atos Origin, Lenovo, Manulife, Panasonic, Samsung, and Swatch all failed to address the issue of Darfur and the Olympics whatsoever; Anheuser-Busch, BHP Billiton, Kodak, Microsoft, Staples, Visa and Volkswagen also received failing grades, even though all of these companies espouse commitments to social responsibility.

• 3 Ds: Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, & UPS earned only 10 points.

• 2 Cs: McDonald's and Adidas barely passed. McDonald's received credit for contacting the IOC and Adidas for contacting the German Foreign Ministry.

• 1 C+: General Electric (GE) earned the highest grade because it contacted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about the crisis in Darfur, provided a point person, and has provided aid. (In addition to GE and McDonald's, a third company contacted the IOC, but did not want this reported for attribution.)

"Even the highest grade, a C+, is nothing to boast about; these are supposed to be corporate leaders, but they have ducked this difficult human rights issue," said Ellen Freudenheim, who heads Dream for Darfur's Corporate Outreach effort and conducted the research.

Criteria and Points
Established a point person (5 points)
Improved understanding of China-Darfur (5 points)
Contacted the Chinese government (25 points)
Contacted the Olympic movement (20 points)
Joined with other sponsors on Darfur (15 points)
Signed the corporate sponsor pledge (10 points)
Gave aid to Darfur (5 points)
Other steps to influence China (15 points)

Grade Total Points
A (71-100)
B+ (51-70)
B (36-50)
C+ (30-35)
C (21-29)
D (10-20)