The era of corporations spying on environmental groups may be brought to an end by a French court decision against Electricté de France SA. A French court last week ordered EDF to pay a fine of 1.5 million Euros, approximately $2080 thousand Canadian dollars, plus damages of 0.5 million Euros to be paid to Greenpeace, for spying on Greenpeace while it challenged the UK government not to allow EDF to expand its nuclear operations in that country. Potentially more effective than the huge fines: four Company officials, including EDF’s head of nuclear safety and the Company’s second in command of nuclear safety security, plus the head of the ‘security’ firm that EDF hired, were given suspended jail sentences.
It is difficult to imagine a court case that is more damaging to the reputation not only of EDF and the European nuclear industry but also of industries worldwide that allow perceptions of environmental disdain to proliferate.
Greenpeace paraphrased Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they spy on you, then you win”. According to the Internet’s quotedb.com, the actual quote is “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” GallonDaily is inclined to think the difference is minor; we have warned for some years that corporations that choose to engage in unethical practices against their opponents are asking for trouble. The Greenpeace vs EDF case seems to provide support for that perspective.
The news story, from the Greenpeace perspective, is at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/dont-hack-the-hippies-nuclear-giant-edf-found/blog/37768/
At press time the Company side of the story does not seem to have warranted a mention at http://www.edfenergy.com. In the UK, where EDF runs eight nuclear power plants, the media reports an EDF spokesperson as saying “”we make no comments on Greenpeace, nothing at all” and “It’s a French story about the French business, it’s nothing to do with us.” In September the CEO of EDF told the British media that Britain’s biggest energy companies have to work hard to rebuild the trust of the general public. ‘Nuff said! While an appeal may indeed be pending, the damage to the nuclear industry in the UK is already well past mending.