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Introducing the London-based companies wrecking the earth for profit

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Map of locations

Security

Military and securityClick here to see the list of companies & addressesThe military industrial complex is one of the most polluting industries on earth. The U.S. Department of Defense is responsible for more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined. It has littered its former war zones with toxic cocktails of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel, pesticides, defoliants like Agent Orange, lead, and other contaminants. War itself is also a major CO2 emitter: in 2005, the UK military was responsible for approximately 5 million tonnes of CO2, which was then roughly equivalent to the total emissions of Senegal. In the same year, the estimate for the US military was 60 million tonnes.But aside from its own direct earth-wrecking, the military plays a further central role in planetary capitalist devastation. It is the enforcement arm of the system, called out to use terror and lethal force wherever profits need defending from people resisting the corporations, and wherever there are new markets to be “opened” through colonisation and regime change.Still drawing on its imperial history, London is one of the main global centres of the war industry. It is home to some of the world’s largest arms manufacturers and dealers. And it is a key hub for mercenary contractors – the Private Military and Security Companies, or PMSCs – which often have close ties to the British armed forces and the local officer class.For arms companies see: Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) listUnsurprisingly the mercenary industry is pretty secretive. Here we just name a few better-known examples of bigger and more public-facing companies.Here are some recent reports on the UK industry with more information:War on Want: Mercenaries Unleashed(2016)Action on Armed Violence: Britain’s private military and security industry examined(December 2018)

Ideology

Ideology industryClick here to see the list of companies & addresses“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.” Ursula Le GuinThe people killing the earth are the powerful: political and business leaders armed with the economic might of trillion dollar investment funds and the lethal force of police and armies.But they can’t do it without widespread consent. They need the active participation of millions of accomplices: managers, bureaucrats, engineers, mercenaries, cops, and many others, who run the earth-wrecking machine and crush resistance. And they need at least passive acceptance from billions more of us: whether we also dream of getting a piece of the action, or we just can’t see any way out.But capitalism isn’t natural or inevitable. It’s just a peculiarly destructive social system made by some human beings over the last few hundred years. To keep going it needs to keep us believing, to continually “manufacture” our consent.The ideology industry is what we’re calling the organisations and networks dedicated to this. Their job is both creative and critical. On the one hand: keep pumping us with beliefs, values and desires that fuel the consumption and growth machine. On the other: undermine any alternative visions.The ideology they weave goes very deep, with multiple layers. Some key ones:Domination: core beliefs separating humans from “nature” and asserting our power over the natural world – and, hand in hand, the separation and domination of some humans over others. This ideological strand goes back some 5,000 years to the origins of “civilisation” and the first states.Capitalism: humans are “economic agents” driven by greed or self-interest; private property and markets are natural and sacred; happiness is consumer goods and financial status; economic growth is the number one political imperative. These ideas have been fighting their way to power over a few hundred years.Green capitalism:now that the ecological devastation caused by capitalism becomes obvious, the ideology industry needs to go into overdrive spinning new stories. It’s not enough just to keep pushing consumer products and the growth fantasy. They also need to reassure us the status quo can solve ecological crises with technofixes and transition fuels – just keep calm and carry on.The ideology industry feeds us these ideas again and again. Some of its main channels are:Education system:even in infant school we can start learning about government authority, private property, business success. Higher education trains the machine’s managers, and the teachers who pass on its values to the next generation.Media and culture industries: TV, movies, drivetime radio, newspapers and social media pump out a million more variants on the same messages, repackaged and repeated with the latest issues, consumer trends or celebrity gossip.Politics:parliamentary politics is a theatre where our “leaders” identify and bicker over the issues of the day – Brexit, "Megxit", "immigrant hordes" … so long as it isn’t capitalism killing the planet. Politicians and media work together in a symbiotic clinch, feeding each other stories and attention.The companies and investors in the directory influence us through all of these channels. They feed them with ideas and stories they want to promote. They also influence what ideas and stories get trashed, buried, or just ignored.Business feeds the education system with ‘school-business partnerships’, the provision of sponsorships and endowments, employment partnerships, academy chains, etc.Business feeds media and culture industries with advertising, investment, press releases and “off the record” sources, targeted PR operations.Business feeds the politicians with lobbying and donations, and by setting up think tanks that develop ideas and agendas.Business also feeds all of these through more informal social networking. Company bosses, financiers, politicians, media moguls, movie producers, editors and commentators, top academics or think tank pundits, etc., all mingle together at conferences, board meetings, dinners, charity events, villa holidays, members’ clubs, old school reunions, and so on.The organisations identified in this section are just some of the most visible players in this web. We start with two of the main channels used to spread ideology: London-based (higher) education institutions; and the more powerful or more right wing media organisations. Then we look at some organisations that help companies influence these: PR firms, lobby groups, and think tanks, as well as more specialist greenwashing initiatives.

Oil & Gas

Oil & gasClick here to see the list of companies & addressesThe companies in this section provide the fuel that is burning the planet. “Big Oil” includes the massive state-backed extractive industries of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, China, and the other major oil-soaked states. And alongside them the multinational “supermajors” – private corporations including BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Conoco Philips, Total, and Eni. Between them these companies are responsible for the supply end of much of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.London is a major centre for Big Oil and gas. BP is headquartered here. Shell is incorporated in London, meaning it is legally registered in the UK, is subject to UK law and taxation policy, and runs many of its operations from here. Most of the other major firms have London offices. Even those without London locations have connections to London-based finance, insurance and other companies - see those sections on the graphic.The descriptions below give very brief glimpses into their impact on the world. The companies in this section cause oil spills and other pollution disasters, instigate wars and massacres, bankroll authoritarian regimes, suppress revolutions and popular movements, destroy indigenous communities, and disrupt ecosystems and wildlife habitats on a massive scale. Their publicly-recorded trails of destruction already fill volumes – but many more of their activities may never come to light, thanks to the enormous power and violence they wield.

Law

Law firmsClick here to see the list of companies & addressesCapitalism can’t function without lawyers to draw up contracts, defend property rights and give “rule of law” cover to the repression of those who challenge it. Brutal earth-wrecking corporations, in particular, have well-paid lawyers on call to justify their land grabs and defend them when “accidents” or human rights violations come to light. The firms in this part are just a few of the most notorious specialists in this area of corporate law.Note: law firms are generally limited partnerships owned by the senior lawyers who work for them.

Insurance

Insurance companiesClick here to see the list of companies & addressesThe insurance industry is a crucial cog in the earth-wrecking machine. Ecocide is a risky venture. Mines or wells fail to produce, ships sink. “Accidents” are a regular occurrence – involving not just loss of capital, but potentially multi-million dollar lawsuits and compensation payouts to the families of those maimed and killed. Governments may come under enough political pressure that they are forced to tighten regulations or even end exploitative contracts.These risks are all just part of doing business. But one or two major incidents could sink an earth-wrecking company – if it wasn’t for the insurance industry. Insurers “pool risk”: collect premiums from all their customers to create large funds, which then pay out to those who get unlucky.What this means is that major earth-wrecking schemes – e.g., a new oil well or coal mine – can’t even get started unless the operator has an insurance contract in place. And this creates a very significant point of “leverage” for those trying to resist.For example, resistance to coal has pushed many big insurers to make statements about withdrawing from coal insurance. Looking at the small print, these statements are often pretty weak: e.g., Axa’s much-heralded statement only talks about phasing out insurance to very big coal miners by 2040. Even so, this pressure is pushing up coal insurance premiums, so making it more and more expensive for miners to start new schemes. That is: campaigning against insurance companies is already stopping at least some new coal mines being dug.London is one of the world’s great insurance marketplaces, arguably the birthplace of the modern commercial insurance system. Lloyds of London began as a coffee house meeting place where ship owners would hook up with rich “names” who would underwrite their colonial trading ventures. London’s insurance scene is still based around the current home of Lloyds, in the east of the City.For more on coal insurance see:Insure our Futurewebsite from Greenpeace and others.

Finance

FinanceClick here to see the list of companies & addressesThe City of London is one of the world’s main finance hubs, second only to New York. It is particularly important as a trading and money laundering centre for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (‘EMEA’, in bankers’ jargon), and for oil and other “commodities”. HSBC and Barclays, two of the world’s major investment banks, both have their headquarters here. And all of the other big global banks have London offices.Banks play an essential part in ecocidal capitalism, channelling the money that companies need to develop new projects. Their key roles include:Lending money directly to companies – in big cases, these may be multi-million dollar “syndicated loans” involving “syndicates” of numerous banks.Arranging for other investors to put their money into companies through bonds and shares.Trading these bonds and shares.Helping companies arrange takeovers, buy-outs, property sales, and other corporate deals.This section covers: first, the state-owned Chinese “Big Four” banks; then, the next biggest global investment banks, as well as other notable multinational investment banks. We have used the Standard & Poors 2021 ranking of top banks, which measures their total assets; and also the ADV Ratings list of top ten investment banks, which measures their revenues.All of them, without a single exception, are involved in funding the fossil fuel drillers, coal diggers, forest clearers, river foulers, and other earth-wreckers. To give an indication of their involvement we have used the “Banking on Climate Chaos 2021” league table, compiled by Rainforest Action Network, Banktrack, Indigenous Environmental Network and other partners.The massive Chinese state-owned banks have been largely focused on financing China’s rapid industrial growth – including the country’s huge coal industry, which accounts for much of the worldwide production of the dirtiest of fuels. The world’s 10 biggest investors in coal mining and coal power are all Chinese banks. Increasingly, the Chinese banks are also becoming involved in deals across the globe. They are leading players in the industrial exploitation of Africa and other regions where China is increasingly replacing the “West” as main neo-colonial power.But, for now, the US, European and Japanese multinationals are still the biggest of all fossil fuel funders. According to the Banking on Climate Chaos list, the world’s top 60 private sector banks have pumped $3.8 trillion into financing fossil fuels since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. And London is where many of these deals are done.

Mining

Mining: metals and mineralsClick here to see the list of companies & addressesThe mining industry is one of the dirtiest and most environmentally catastrophic, both in its scale and in its violence against people and planet. Mining uses huge amounts of water, often already in scarce supply. Mining operations inevitably involve the production of enormous amounts of toxic waste, much of which finds its way onto cultivable land or into water sources. Waste is often stored in huge ‘tailing’ dams which then not infrequently collapse, spilling toxic sludge over whole communities, and destroying livelihoods. (See theLondon Mining Network’s useful explainer). A 2019 dam collapse in Brazil, at a mine owned by Vale, caused 12 cubic metres of toxic tailings to be released, seeping into surrounding land and leading to the pollution of an estimated 300km of river.Companies greedy for valuable raw materials are likely to take shortcuts with environmental protections, if they even exist, and ride roughshod over local needs. Violence against individuals and local communities is widespread, and may include forced evictions, as well as repression and murder of people who try to resist.London is a major centre for the global mining industry. Many of the world’s mining giants are listed on the London, Stock Exchange, while the London Metals Exchange is the number one marketplace for industrial metals trading (See 'Finance'). The miners thus use London as a hub to raise finance, trade their products, and launder their profits.The companies here have been selected on the basis of their size or number of operations, and on past records of environmental violence. Some key sources and further information: London Mining Network; Environmental Justice Atlas,The Rivers are Bleeding (by War on Want).

Infrastructure

Earth-killing infrastructure: engineering and constructionClick here to see the list of companies & addressesThe energy and mining companies – including fossil fuels, nuclear and dams – do not act alone. They rely on major infrastructure support, including from the engineers who develop and support drillheads, pipelines, or nuclear reactors; and the construction companies who build their dams and power stations.This section includes just some of the most prominent engineering and construction companies. It includes some global behemoths, and the top UK building firms that work on energy infrastructure and other big polluting projects such as motorway building. We also include a sub-section on cement production.

Agribusiness

AgribusinessClick here to see the list of companies & addressesCorporate agriculture is infamous for its negative effect on the planet and the climate. The list for this sector is thinner – London is not a hub for agribusiness companies in the same way as hydrocarbons or mining. UK agribusiness tends to be regionally based: e.g., Bernard Matthews’ famous Norfolk poultry farming, or fishing fleets in coastal ports. A major exception, is the giant of ABF.The biggest global agri-corps are US companies (particularly for soya and meat), with East Asia cornering the palm oil and sea food industries. The world’s largest chemical fertiliser giant - also Europe’s biggest buyer of natural gas - Yara, is a Norwegian company with no London base (see Corporate Watch profile). We’ve also included major global food companies that are key customers of the big agribusiness corps, and in some cases also run their own agro-industry supply chains.

Non-fossil energy

Non-fossil energy: nuclear, biomass, dams…Click here to see the list of companies & addressesWith pressure growing on the fossil fuel industry, many big energy companies are gradually – if much more slowly than their propaganda suggests – moving towards more “renewable” sources. But not all of these “green energy” solutions are by any means safe or environmentally harmless. Nuclear power, of course, is itself associated with tremendous ecological contamination. Hydropower, as practised by corporations seeking to maximise profits above all, often means mega-dam projects that displace human and other animal populations, divert water supplies, and devastate river-based ecologies. Another green-spun technology is biomass – which can include simply cutting and burning up forests before they even get the chance to turn into fossil fuels.Some key sources and further information:Biofuelwatch: UK biomass industry mapCorporate Watch: A-Z of Green Capitalism (2016)Corporate Watch Techno-fixes (2008)