What would you say if I were to tell you that a New Zealand company has been fined every year since 2004 for breaches of air pollution regulations — in China?
What if I was to tell you this company, which has strong New Zealand links – including a former Prime Minister on the board –, is still breaching air quality standards?
You’d probably be appalled.
For one thing you just need to imagine how hard it is to breach air pollution regulations in China. Having been to China and blown my nose and seen black boogers come out I imagine that air quality is not one of their strong points – so these guys must really be doing something wrong.
Another reason is a New Zealand company thinks since we have tight regulations here it is okay to go pollute someone one else’s back yard. Is this part of our free trade agreement with China, we can pollute there and they can buy our strategic assets?
Richina has also been a bit ethically dubious with the way it has hidden the fact that it is the main driver behind the pollution. It has set up seven subsidiary companies, three (Shanghai Richina Leather, Shanghai Hongguang Leather and Shanghai Leather Chemical Factory) of which are routinely noted by locals as the worst polluters.
Thankfully some of the companies which were buying Richina leather have realised they need to be better corporate players. Brands like Timberlands have stopped buying from the company which has lead to an almost 80 percent drop in production for the leather producer.
Perhaps we should start asking questions of their NZ operation, Mainzeal, to see if they have the same cavalier attitude to the environment and public health in New Zealand.