InterContinental Hotels Group under UN scrutiny over Lhasa hotel plan
Unanswered questions come back to haunt multinational
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has been directed by the office of the United Nations Global Compact to respond to a complaint submitted by Tibet campaigners about its controversial plan to open a luxury hotel in the capital of occupied Tibet.
IHG is a signatory to the Global Compact, a scheme designed to foster best practice in corporate responsibility by multinational companies.
The campaigners maintain that the hotel plan and the company’s refusal to answer questions about it are incompatible with the principles of the compact.
IHG has until March 15 to provide a written response.
The Global Compact is a “policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations . . . with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption” (1).
Its board is appointed and chaired by UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-Moon.
IHG promotes its status as a Global Compact member on its corporate responsibility (CR) website (2).
Although the scheme strongly encourages dialogue between signatory companies and stakeholders, the company has repeatedly declined to answer specific questions from Free Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet regarding the Lhasa hotel (3).
The organisations have now submitted the six-page complaint to the office of the Global Compact (4) which has passed it on to IHG and instructed the company to:
"make written comments and send them directly to [Free Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet], with the Global Compact Office in copy. We also ask to be informed of any actions that you take to address the situation which is the matter of allegation." (5)
The office of the Compact wrote that their aim in communicating such complaints is to:
"assist participants in aligning their actions with the commitments they have undertaken with regard to the Global Compact Principles." (5)
Issues raised in the complaint include:
· The Compact advises companies to take steps to avoid providing "material support" to human rights abuses (6). Free Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet have repeatedly asked IHG how it intends to prevent officials involved in human rights abuses using the hotel's facilities but it has given no answer;
· The Compact advises companies to undertake consultation to assess the impact of their activities (7).
The campaigners have repeatedly asked IHG who it consulted in and beyond Lhasa but it has refused to answer.
It has previously referred to consulting "local government", ie the Chinese Communist authorities in Tibet, but has refused to elaborate further.
The Compact recommends that companies should have "transparent" policies on corruption (8).
IHG's billionaire business partner in the Lhasa hotel is being investigated for fraud and illegal tax deals (9) but IHG has refused to provide any information to campaigners about its anti-corruption policies.
Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) and Free Tibet are leading a global campaign against the company over its Lhasa hotel plan.
The letter of complaint addressed to IHG, signed by Eleanor Byrne Rosengren, director of Free Tibet, and SFT campaigns director Pema Dolma says:
“Given the Compact’s emphasis on consultation, engagement and transparency, it is inappropriate for [IHG] to hold itself unaccountable to the global community and legitimate stakeholders.
IHG has repeatedly declined to provide evidence that it has undertaken due diligence in regard to the Lhasa development.
In our view, your unwillingness to both engage constructively with criticism of your corporate behaviour and to demonstrate your support for Global Compact principles in regard to the development in Tibet falls short of the standards of transparency, engagement and evaluation of its own performance that a Compact signatory should exemplify.”
More information about the campaign and the hotel at www.freetibet.org/intercontinental
For more information or comment, contact Free Tibet media officer Alistair Currie
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605
2) IHG Corporate Responsibility page http://www.ihgplc.com/index.asp?pageid=737#ngo
3) Correspondence available from Free Tibet
4) Copy available from Free Tibet
5) Copy of Global Compact message dated 15 January 2014 available from Free Tibet
6) Global Compact Principle Two http://www.unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/TheTenPrinciples/Principle2.html
7) Global Compact Principle One http://www.unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/TheTenPrinciples/principle1.html and Two http://www.unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/TheTenPrinciples/Principle2.html
8) Global Compact Principle Ten http://www.unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/TheTenPrinciples/principle10.html
9) Deng Hong, Exhibition & Travel Group http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/pr/intercontinental-hotels-group-china-partner-arrested-fraud-charges