Jan. 01, 2008 Congratulations to the Center for Human Rights and Environment in Argentina (CEDHA) for winning the well-deserved Sierra Club Earth Care Award!

Publish Date: 
Friday, August 3, 2012

Sierra Club’s Earth Care Award Goes to
the Center for Human Rights and Environment in Argentina


The Center for Human Right and Environment (CEDHA), based in Argentina, receives the Sierra Club’s 2007 Earth Care Award, for its global leadership in promoting greater human rights and environmental accountability in corporate finance and governance.

Sierra Club refers to CEDHA’s recent advocacy work to oppose two highly controversial mega pulp mills on the Uruguay–Argentine border (by Botnia and ENCE), the opposition to which has spawned one of the largest environmental social movements in global history. Sierra Club’s International Committee chose CEDHA for this year’s Earth Care Award for its outstanding achievements, ingenuity and innovation combining voluntary and legally binding frameworks to raise the responsibility bar on environment and human rights for the corporate sector and for CEDHA’s ongoing contribution to the evolution of international guarantees to provide justice to victims of corporate human rights abuses and environmental degradation caused by irresponsible investment and business practice.

Founded in Argentina in 1999 in their living room, by husband-wife team, Romina Picolotti (an Argentine Human Rights lawyer, now Environment Secretary) and Jorge Daniel Taillant (an Argentine immigrant to San Francisco – CEDHA’s Director), with key start-up support from fellow-NGO, the Center for International Environmental Law and from the Hewlett Foundation, CEDHA quickly grew to a full-fledged civil society organization of 25-staff working locally and internationally to promote linkages between environmental advocacy and human rights.

The inspiration to link human rights and environment came to Picolotti, when working as a human rights lawyer with Global Rights (then the IHRLG) focusing primarily on civil and political rights violations perpetrated by authoritarian dictatorships. James Anaya, a renown indigenous human rights attorney and Durwood Zaelke, founder of CIEL, asked her to help them think through human rights arguments to protect the Awas Tigni indigenous community in Central America from illegal logging, and to convince the Inter-American Court on Human Rights that environmental degradation in indigenous lands, was indeed a human rights violation. This led to a new way of approaching environmental advocacy with the use of human rights law and justice mechanisms. CEDHA was born.

Sustainable development, believes CEDHA, has most to do with business behavior. Industry utilizes environmental resources, and generates a debt to society. The repayment of that debt (the protection and reparation of the environment) is a necessary precondition for Sustainable Development, and this can only happen if CSR is set in a controlled, obligatory and binding framework.

Concerned with the evolution of the “Corporate Social Responsibility” movement as largely void of binding commitments, and nearly absent legal forums for victims to take complaints over abusive corporate behavior, CEDHA’s advocacy turned to corporate “accountability” and the human rights dimensions of corporate activity.

CEDHA assisted the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in designing what would become the world’s foremost human rights indicators for business, which are widely used today as benchmarks for corporate measurement of human rights impacts. CEDHA assisted the UN to draft the UN Human Rights Norms for Transnational Corporations, and teamed up with groups like the Bank Information Center, ESCR-Net, Banktrack, Rights and Democracy and OECD Watch, to think through ways to force large multilateral financial institutions like the World Bank, and State actors, which make relatively weak or no commitments to corporate accountability, to put their money (and their environmental commitments) where their glossy CSR reports and websites are.

Last year, Romina Picolotti, CEDHA’s co-founder, received the Sophie Prize, a distinguished Norwegian global environmental prize, for CEDHA’s innovative contribution to sustainable development, and subsequently became Environment Secretary of Argentina, where she is now embarked on an environmental compliance and enforcement crackdown of contaminating industries and the clean-up of one of the hemisphere’s most contaminated river basins, the Riachuelo. This crackdown has already forced many large multinationals such as Shell, Petrobras, Danone, Bridgestone-Firestone, among many other national companies (leather tanneries, metalworks, lactose factories, etc.), to clean up their facilities and bring operations up to environmental code.

A long time collaborator and CEDHA-Advisor, Durwood Zaelke who now presides the International Network on Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) and is working with CEDHA to streamline human rights into climate change debates, indicated, “CEDHA mixes imagination and passion with professionalism and sophistication, to achieve real results, both on the ground through their advocacy efforts, and in the policy sphere, giving courage and inspiration to others around the world to follow. CEDHA has re-set the bar for the rest of the NGO community, reminding us how to demand more from the world, and how to be clever in achieving our demands.”

John Ruggie, UN Special Representative on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations, congratulated CEDHA on the award indicating, "CEDHA is a force to be reckoned with because they combine a deep understanding of how the system works with great strategic and organizing skills in finding ways to change it."

The team at the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, perhaps the world’s most important clearing house of up-to-date information on business and human rights commented on the Earth Care Award decision, “CEDHA are playing a truly pioneering role in the business & human rights field.”

For more information see:

CEDHA Information on Corporate Accountability and Human Rights

Information on Pulp Mill Case (Against Oy Metsa Botnia) 

Contact: Jorge Daniel Taillant; jdtaillant@cedha.org.ar