Food campaign news
Barclays wins worst corporate award in Davos
Soon after it got light on Saturday morning, I set off from a tiny chalet, lugging my bags through a blizzard down a snowy track impassable to cars. The bags were heavier than when I’d arrived, because I was carrying an award. The previous day, Barclays – the UK’s biggest food speculator – had declined to show up to the Public Eye Awards to collect its prize for being the world’s worst corporation. Following WDM’s nomination, Barclays was selected by a jury, while the ‘winner’ of a second prize decided by over 90,000 voters was mining giant Vale.
Last year, WDM revealed that Barclays makes up to £340 million a year from betting on food prices. Our groups across the country helped to bring home to people in the UK what rising food prices mean in the global south, holding sales of impossibly expensive food outside their local branches of Barclays.
But Barclays continues to speculate on food and maintains a close relationship with UK Treasury ministers who are seeking to scupper EU regulation that would curb food speculation. It was time to have another crack and pile on the pressure internationally. The Public Eye Awards provided the opportunity.
It wasn’t as if we were asking Barclays’ chiefs to go out of their way to collect the award. The ceremony was held just outside the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where no fewer than four of Barclays’ top executives were in attendance. Barclays was among the sponsors of this annual festival of neoliberalism, which brings together politicians and the world’s highest concentration of billionaires. It’s not an inclusive affair – attendance is by invitation only and costs upwards of $20,000. 83 per cent of participants were men.
Leaving the Forum in favour of the Public Eye Awards was, however, something that Nobel laureate and globalisation critic Joseph Stiglitz was prepared to do. As keynote speaker, he said the banking sector’s shrugging off of the risks it creates was comparable to the nuclear industry. And he condemned the capture of regulations and legal frameworks by corporations, which leaves them with “enormous latitude for exploitative practices.” It’s this state of affairs that makes civil society action critical.
Afterwards, I tried to get into the heavily-guarded Forum to hand over the award to Barclays, but failed. We’ll have to find another opportunity…
Amy researches and campaigns on food speculation.