HidroAysén and The Home Depot: Myth vs. Fact

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Pointing Out Matte Group (CMPC) Brand in Home Depot ActionsThe Home Depot is feeling the pressure of our campaign, so much so that they have taken to responding to Patagonia Campaign supporters that have sent them email actions and postcards. In these responses, and on their website, The Home Depot has continued to present misleading information.  Here are a few examples of The Home Depot Myths, compared with The Patagonia Dam Facts.

The Home Depot Myth: Their suppliers hold only a small minority stake in the companies involved in the project.

The Patagonia Dam Fact:  The main Chilean partner in the Patagonia Dam joint-venture scheme known as HidroAysén is called Colbún. Colbún owns 49% of HidroAysén (Enel, an Italian energy multi-national corporation, controls the other 51%). The Home Depot supplier Matte Group (CMPC) is considered the “de-facto” owner of Colbún, with a 49% percent share and control of the board of directors. Considering the Angelini Group (Arauco) shares in Colbún, The Home Depot suppliers in question own a controlling interest in Colbún. The Home Depot suppliers are major stakeholders in the Patagonia Dam controversy.

The Home Depot Myth: The organizations involved in this situation are not directly involved in harvesting any of the wood we purchase.

The Patagonia Dam Fact: Read the business section of Chile’s newspapers and one will verify how the Matte Group owns Colbún (energy) and CMPC (forestry). The Home Depot buys wood products directly from the Matte Group (CMPC). The Matte and the Angelini Groups are huge economic interests with forestry, mining, energy, and banking sectors that are intricately interconnected. Members of the Matte family trade stock and hold executive posts in all their companies.

The Home Depot Myth: The issue is about choosing between coal burning power plants or large-scale hydroelectric development in Patagonia.

The Patagonia Dam Fact: Chile is a country with the some of the greatest renewable solar, geothermal, and wind options in the world. Energy efficiency efforts are now considered a potential source of energy that contribute to making the Patagonia Dams unnecessary. As well, the companies promoting the dams in Patagonia are also investing in coal burning power plants–as well as renewable wind energy projects! The Home Depot is repeating a false discourse of choosing between coal and large-scale hydroelectric development to meet future energy needs, when Chile has many energy options and the Patagonia Dams scheme HidroAysén is simply not necessary. As well, large-scale hydro is recognized to be neither clean nor renewable, and is widely considered a false solution for meeting climate change challenges.

The Home Depot Myth: This decision is best made by the country and its citizens.

The Patagonia Dam Fact: We agree! Recent polling shows that a majority of Chileans rejects the construction of dams on Patagonia’s rivers. More than half of the public agencies reviewing the dam project supported outright rejection of the Environmental Impact Study. Government technicians and Chile’s citizens are against dams in Patagonia, yet the project continues to be moved forward with political manipulations that are reminiscent of the legacy of the military dictatorship that gave away the water rights to Patagonia’s rivers decades ago. Consumers in the United States have a right to consider how the history between the United States and Chile, including the legacy of the dictatorship, connects us directly to the destruction of Chile’s rivers–and to choose not to pay for it!

The Home Depot Myth: We take seriously our ability to effect change by doing the right thing in the communities where we do business.

The Patagonia Dam Fact: The Home Depot contends that they can do nothing to stop the construction of the dams in Patagonia, though there is little question that action on their part would have tremendous consequences on a national and international level. In this instance, we obviously take their ability to effect change more seriously than they do.

The Home Depot Myth: We have played a key role in previous timber disputes in Chile.

The Patagonia Dam Fact: The Home Depot has a specific, written agreement to protect native forests in Chile, yet the HidroAysén project threatens to destroy thousands of acres of native forest types found no-where else on the planet. By referring to their previous agreement to protect native forests in Chile, The Home Depot is reiterating the responsibility that they have to their customers and shareholders to follow through on environmental commitments and to act to now to protect Chile’s native forests.

The campaign for Patagonia's wild rivers is growing!The Home Depot Myth: We will encourage our customers to become environmentally conscious shoppers.

The Patagonia Dam Fact: One of the key elements to being an environmentally conscious shopper is to “follow the money” that you spend on products all the way to the companies that profit from your purchase. In this case, The Home Depot is failing to adhere to a rigorous and innovative definition of what it means to be an environmentally conscious shopper. Simply said, Home Depot sales are benefiting economic interests that promote the destruction of rivers and forests in wild Patagonia. Until The Home Depot takes a responsible stand on this issue, environmentally conscious shoppers will no longer shop at The Home Depot!

Organize an action at a Home Depot store near you!