Jonathan Porritt\’s latest report

I\’ve only skimmed the first few pages as yet but things don\’t look good for our favourite Old Etonian Baronet. Here he is on the subject of Jack Welch, General Electric and the pollution of the Hudson River with PCBs.

Jack Welch is the most celebrated Chief Executive of the last 30 years.
Indeed, he was recognised by his peers “Business Manager of the 20th
Century”. It’s his variety of capitalism that is now withering away in front
of our eyes. He was aggressive, ruthless, and known to friend and foe
alike as “Neutron Jack” for his ability to hollow out businesses by sacking
a quota of employees every year (“pour encourager les autres”) whilst
keeping the business itself intact.
He was also an environmental despoiler on an heroic scale. It’s not the
legacy he himself lays claim to in his self-aggrandizing autobiography,
but Jack Welch will be remembered for years to come as much for his
impact on the environment as for his fi nancial success. Most notoriously,
the Hudson River has been devastated by GE’s release of toxic chemicals
such as PCBs over many years. After an extremely effective delaying
campaign, a clean-up of sorts is now underway. And GE’s current
shareholders will see billions of dollars from what would have been
their rightful dividends deployed over the next decade or more to
clean up his toxic mess.
The much-hyped “Masters of the Universe” who have caused the
fi nancial system to implode, are, to a man, Jack Welch look-alikes.
Their legacy is different but strangely similar: packages of toxic debt
released with criminal irresponsibility into the US capital markets,
just as Jack Welch released his barrels of PCBs into the Hudson River.

Now I do dimly remember that GE was accused of polluting the Hudson but the timescales look a little wrong for it to be Jack Welch in charge. So I looked it up.

1947-1977: GE uses PCBs at its Hudson Falls and Fort Edward facilities. PCB oils discharged directly and indirectly into the Hudson River include both non-permitted and permitted discharges. Estimates of the total quantity of PCBs discharged directly into the Hudson River from the two plants during this time are as high as 1,330,000 pounds. Discharged PCBs were transported throughout the river and adhered to sediments at the bottom, including in larger areas behind the Fort Edward Dam.

So GE stopped using the PCBs in 1977. There was further pollution after that as what had already been emitted spread further, but there was no primary release after that date.

One tiny note, there were no barrels used.

So,. was Neutron Jack responsible for this, as Porritt claims?

John Francis "Jack" Welch, Jr. (born November 19, 1935(1935-11-19)) was Chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001.

Well, certainly not as CEO, no, as he rose to that position 4 years *after* the primary pollution stopped.

I\’ve no information as to what parts of GE Jack ran before his ascention but unless at some point he was directly the line manager for that specific plant I\’d say that, purely as a personal opinion you understand,  Porritt\’s accusations there are verging upon libel.

Even if they\’re not it\’s not an entirely encouraging start for his thesis, is it? Not the sort of accuracy we might want to demand from a report attempting to tell us how to run the world?

2 comments on “Jonathan Porritt\’s latest report

  1. Reasonably sure that Welch never worked at any of the NY plants. Not that it matters, really.

  2. You haven’t raised an objection to Porritt’s argument. You’re attacking a strawman. It’s sad. If you want people to take you seriously, address the arguments instead of nitpicking (quite desperately) at minutiae.

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