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Non-profit expects word-of-mouth to force Chevron to do what is right for Ecuadorian indigenous

When newspapers cut their foreign news bureaus, they did more than just save themselves a few extra bucks — they created a vacuum for news happening outside the United States.

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One of the casualties is news of an ongoing $27 billion pollution lawsuit between 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorians and the American oil company Chevron. The lawsuit pending against Chevron has lasted so far for 17 years.

In the meantime, the 30,000 indigenous people unlucky to live near where Texaco, the company at fault for contaminating the land and water where these indigenous people live and which Chevron bought, are suffering from medical conditions brought on by the oil exploration which contaminated the land and water.

Chevron, which bought Texaco, does not feel personal responsibility for what has happened in the region. A new non-profit called Ethos Alliance sees it differently.

Launched today, organizers of Ethos Alliance feel that all businesses have an obligation towards social and ethical corporate responsibility in doing the right thing. In this case, it’s providing humanitarian relief to the 30,000 who are suffering the consequences of bad business practices brought on through oil exploration.

Organizers of Ethos Alliance are quick to point out that they are not anti-business. In fact, the founder is the retired co-founder of the clothing retailer The Men’s Warehouse. However, the Ethos Alliance is built on the notion that businesses need to act ethically and behave socially responsible wherever their business practices impact communities.

But while Chevron officials continue to fight the lawsuit, the Ethos Alliance doesn’t plan on waiting to see who wins before deciding how to help.

Plans are underway to establish funds to provide clean water, medical supplies and healthcare and recover some of the land the indigenous tribes lost to the oil companies.

But how will the Ethos Alliance raise these funds and let people know about what is and has been happening in Ecuador all these years?

Through social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook), bloggers, YouTube and bringing the message to the next generation of the country’s business leaders — on college campuses. A nationwide tour is underway on college campuses to tell more people about the Chevron-Ecuadorian lawsuit and to put pressure on Chevron to do “what is right.”

This is the first project for the new non-profit organization but it won’t be the last. Ethos Alliance officials know that there are other stories where businesses lapsed in their moral and ethical responsibilities to the extent that vulnerable people are put in bad situations.

The Ethos Alliance has a set criteria for which projects they take on:

Ethos Alliance evaluates the following criteria to determine which problem to tackle:
(1) scale of the problem (e.g., national, local, or global),
(2) degree of public awareness about the problem,
(3) gravity of the problem (e.g., how many people affected, how long the problem has gone unsolved, etc), and
(4) level of progress made in solving the problem (e.g., which organizations and people are actively solving the problem, how much money has been invested, etc).

But the Ethos Alliance isn’t just about getting businesses to do the right thing; it’s about getting EVERYONE to do the right thing.

On the Ethos Alliance website, people are asked to join the alliance and donate $5 that will go towards financing the organization’s operations plus go towards the funds set up to help the Ecuadorians.

Historically, when businesses have failed to live up to their social responsibility and have taken a heavy-handed approach against a certain group of people, it’s easy for those people to feel voiceless and powerless.

But as Ethos Alliance is illustrating, those days are gone as more and more people tweet, blog and Facebook about the injustices that need to be rectified and making businesses “do the right thing.”

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