Corporate Philanthropy in Boston

By Adrienne from Boston

The hypocrisy inherent in corporate philanthropy makes me angrier than many things. I hate that companies that thieve billions in profits through injurious means can successfully improve their public image by throwing a few bucks at a non-profit or making an empty gesture to alleviate some problem to which they contribute egregiously.

We've got beer companies like Miller Lite who advertise with images of violent hetero-masculinity, but who go on to sponsor Gay Pride events with big rainbow banners. We've got Levi's, who closed operations in a small Texan town, ruining the lives and economic opportunities for its former workers, but then set up a relief fund for its own victims [1]. Bank of America has given over $144 billion to the mining and burning of coal, unspeakably devastating to all forms of life, but by making lighter receipt paper for its ATMs was declared "green" by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Walking down Harvard Ave. earlier this summer, I was visually assaulted by a billboard promoting NSTAR's Walk for Children's Hospital Boston, which took place in June. Why should I be upset by NSTAR's generosity toward a children's hospital? Because NSTAR is the largest energy company in Massachusetts, and it is sourced heavily by burning coal [2].

Burning coal is unspeakably disastrous to human health - and children's health especially. It increases cancer risk and is known to cause cognitive delay, not to mention hordes of respiratory issues, including asthma. The fact that NSTAR raised $863,276.31 for the Children's Hospital does not cancel out the fact that they're sending so many children to the hospital to begin with.

(In June, NSTAR's Web site assured me that, beginning in July, customers can have their energy provided by wind power for an additional $4-7 a month. When I tried to pre-enroll for this service, I was told that my account would have to be verified to make sure that I meet all of their "NSTAR Green" requirements. In late July and again in late August, I checked on the status of the enrollment and was told both times that my account "will be examined to ensure" it meets "NSTAR Green's requirements," causing me to doubt the existence of this program. The language had also been changed, now saying that one's electricity will "support" wind power, rather than be sourced by it.)

The day after my run in with the billboard, a friend noticed the list of sponsors for the Massachusetts Society for the Protection of Animals' annual Walk for Animals. Among the sponsors (though Fox News and Domino's Pizza strike one as unusual), none were quite so blatantly hypocritical as Novartis, who sponsored this event last year as well.

Novartis is a pharmaceutical company and one of the primary clients of Huntingdon Life Sciences - a contract animal-testing company whose practices are exceptionally abominable, killing 500 animals a day, engaging in outright animal abuse and have been exposed more than five times for improper conduct on the job. So horrific are they that there's an ongoing international campaign to get the company shut down by any means necessary [3].

Novartis must have read the part on the MSPCA's Web site where it says that eight in 10 Americans report that corporate support of causes wins their trust in that company - because if a company that regularly abuses, tortures and kills animals throws a few bucks toward the MSPCA's mission to "have a significant impact in the lives of thousands of animals," then who are we to question their integrity?

So that's why I hate corporate philanthropy. At least these reprehensible practices make it that much easier to illustrate why capitalism needs to be destroyed, like, 500 years ago.

[1] Read about this and more in Miriam Ching Yoon Louie. Sweatshop Warriors: Immigrant Women Workers Take on the Global Factory. Cambridge, Mass: South End Press, 2001.

[2] Aviva Chomsky, "The Dirty Story Behind Local Energy," The Phoenix, 1 October 2007,

[3] For more information about Huntingdon Life Sciences and the international campaign against them, go to

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