First published by Quadrant Online December 18, 2012
The dictionary defines stakeholder as a person or group that has a financial investment, share, or other significant personal interest in some thing or activity. In law such status is recognised by the concept of legal standing (locus standi) and it requires the ability to demonstrate sufficient connection to a matter to be potentially harmed by the legal outcome. There is a well-established body of law which recognises a right to have a voice in affairs which affect us personally; but, we have no right to interfere in matters remote from ourselves which are, in effect, none of our business
In addition to the stakeholder caper, the NGOs also have managed to insert themselves as regulators collecting healthy fees as well. This takes the form of a protection racket offering environmental “certification” to businesses which cooperate and pay substantial sums to become environmentally certified. This has worked like a treat in the food and timber industries, where the market is dominated by a few large retailers.
It works like this: the eco-mob set up an environmental certification entity, then besiege the retailers with a PR campaign designed to simulate and stimulate a public demand for environmental certification of the target product. For the retailers it’s a no brainer. The public seems to want it. It makes them look good and has no apparent cost to themselves. The primary producers then find themselves having to sign up for certification and toe the eco-line if they want to sell their products.
In circumstances where there are diverse retailers who are too difficult to coerce or where it is obvious the customers really don’t care, the eco-mob have found another way to stand over the producers by teaming up with the bureaucracy. Eco certification costs the bureaucrats nothing and it makes their own management look good, so they are prone to cooperate. In addition, they already have a structure in place to provide a sham appearance of industry “consultation” and agreement with whatever they want to do, so foisting eco-certification onto the producers is only a routine doddle for them.
Any troublesome farmers, fishermen or graziers are simply ignored. The deal is done with a few handbags from an industry “peak body” which the bureaucrats effectively own and control through a grant that funds the cost of an office and a few full-time staff.
Certification is a sweet racket. It not only provides substantial management control, but also collects fat fees and provides ongoing free advertising about the great job the self- appointed eco-saviours are doing to “save” the environment for the rest of us.
That the environmental NGOs have managed to usurp such influence and outright power with so little objection, even questioning, is remarkable. Even more so is the fact that the most influential groups (e.g. WWF, Pew, Greenpeace) are not even Australian organizations but foreign entities controlled by distant and largely unknown persons accountable to no one. Are they caring and competent or fundamentalist fanatics, perhaps even minions of forces with darker agendas? We don’t have a clue but are simply going along like sheep to wherever they want and whatever awaits us.
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Walter Starck is one of Australia’s most experienced marine biologists, with a professional career of studying coral reef and marine fishery ecosystems
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