When the history of the insect collapse of the early 21st century comes to be written, it is likely that failure to implement adequate corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices will be blamed.
In a recent example, in September when a consortium led by Japanese giant Mitsui Corporation announced its acquisition of Indian pesticide manufacturer Bharat Insecticides Ltd. (BIL), the reasons given for the takeover contradict Mitsui’s published CSR policy.
The result is likely to be a further decrease in pollinating insects in India. On its website, BIL lists several neonicotinoid insecticides for sale in India that have been banned in the EU due to their effects on bees, as well as fipronil which has been banned in China due to its devastating effects on water insects.
Pesticides Action Network India representative Narasimha Reddy Donthi said by email that the acquisition will allow access to the Indian market as BIL already has licenses there.
In addition, Donthi said that insecticide exports are also a likely aim as “India has lax laws on environment protection, which means low cost of production, through externalisation of environmental costs.”
Donthi added that, “all pesticide companies have to submit to principles of liability and pollution pays principles.
“Products such as neonicotinoids are playing havoc with the people, environment and ecology. This foreign acquisition only spurs a more expansive campaign to rein in companies that are profiting from destruction of ecology and environment.”
The situation in India is deteriorating rapidly, according to a 2017 peer-reviewed study by a team from the Centre for Pollination Studies at the University of Calcutta published in the journal Biological Conservation.
Using observations by local farmers due to the lack of prior scientific studies, the study found that together with declining vegetable crop yields, insect pollinator populations had dropped drastically compared with 25 years before.
The disappearing insects include honeybees, carpenter bees and blue-banded bees, and the paper states that pollinator declines were attributed by farmers to the quantity and number of pesticides used.
Lead scientist Dr Barbara Smith told The Ecologist: “An increase in insecticide application is likely to be negative for pollinators – particularly broad spectrum pesticides – and this could certainly lead to declines in crop yields in the medium to long-term.”
Mitsui’s Basic CSR Policy states that the company will “contribute to the achievement of a sustainable society through the promotion of sustainable development as well as maintaining a strong awareness of the importance of preserving the global environment.”
It also emphasises the importance of communicating with stakeholders and being accountable for CSR activities.