Company Operating in Chile Concerned Patagonia Dams Will Damage Their Brand

Gary Graham Hughes

WindsorONE is a small company that endeavors to reduce it's exposure to risk associated with Patagonia dams
WindsorONE is a small company that endeavors to reduce it's exposure to risk associated with Patagonia dams
Company takes steps to distance itself from suppliers who are involved with mega-hydroelectric development in Aysén Region of Chile.

The California based company WindsorONE manufactures a variety of wood products at their operations in Southern Chile. This company has recently announced new raw material purchasing policies reflecting their concern about the damage that the Patagonia dams controversy can do to their products and brand. The announcement is posted on a company blog, and is titled "Triple Bottom Line and The Patagonia."

Specifically, WindsorONE has announced that "We are concerned that the Patagonia dam controversy would conflict with our environmental commitment and somehow be linked to our brand and products."

WindsorONE is a small company that has been hit particularly hard by the Feb 27 earthquake, but they have tried to bounce back by investing in local communities--and in distinguishing their brand from that of the giant Chilean wood products transnationals CMPC and Arauco. CMPC belongs to the Matte Group, and Arauco belongs to the Angelini Group--which when taken together own a majority share of Colbún, the junior partner with Endesa/Enel in the HidroAysén mega-project, and a controversial dam builder in their own right.

Beyond HidroAysén, Colbún is particularly notorious for moving forth with the proposed 344 MW La Angostura project on the already heavily dammed Bío Bío River. It is important to note that, after the major conflicts with the Pehuenche indigenous communities over the construction of the Pangue and Ralco dams on the Bío Bío, the Chilean government signed a "Friendship Agreement" with the  Pehuenche communities to build no more large dams in the Bío Bío watershed. Nonetheless, Colbún, and hence the Matte and Angelini Groups, are moving forward with building the third large dam on the Bío Bío, a flagrant violation of the agreement made with communities directly affected by large-scale hydro development.

As egregious an example of irresponsible development as is the La Angostura project, it is the current controversy over the dams in Patagonia that is presenting the most serious reputational risk to companies and institutions in Chile, and especially those who are doing business with the interests that propose to build the HidroAysén mega-dams and transmission lines.

The announcement (see it here) by WindsorONE reflects the real evidence that producers and companies operating in Chile are highly aware that Chile's international image is being damaged by environmental conflicts like the Patagonia Dams controversy, and that international markets will respond in a negative way to mega-development that undervalues the true worth of the river and forest ecosystems, and the people that depend on them, of Chile's Patagonia Region.

WindsorONE certainly should be commended for taking a courageous and principled stand on this issue in very challenging economic circumstances.

Concerned about the dams and the damage they are doing to the reputation of businesses operating in Chile? Let Chilean President Sebastian Piñera know that he should "Pull the Plug on Patagonia Dams!" As well, if you or business people you know would like to join the network of companies and business people with connections in Chile and who know that real sustainability is based on the effective environmental protections and true commitments to local communities that would be reflected in pursuing alternatives to mega-hydro in Patagonia, be sure to subscribe to this blog.