Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun an awardee of the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize

Ma Jun, one of China’s most effective environmentalists, is a recipient of the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize.   The official release from the Goldman Environmental Prize had the following to say:

Motivation

While working at the South China Morning Post in the 1990s, Ma Jun had the opportunity to travel extensively in the country. He witnessed the environmental pollution, eco-degradation and sufferings of people in various watersheds in China. He began focusing on research into water challenges, and his book “China’s Water Crisis” became a national call for environmental protection.

Realizing that access to information was a prerequisite for public participation in pollution control, Ma Jun founded the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), where he organizes the monitoring and enforcement data from the Chinese government to make it available to the public through online air and water pollution maps.

Impact

To date, Ma Jun and his team at IPE have exposed over 90,000 air and water violations by local and multinational companies operating in China. Chinese citizens, for the first time in history, have at their fingertips information that reveals which companies are violating environmental regulations across China’s 31 provinces—and with it, the power to demand justice.

Through its Green Choice supply chain program, which has 41 local NGO participants, IPE has encouraged consumers to use their buying power to influence corporate sourcing and manufacturing behavior. Although IPE has no regulatory authority within the government, under Ma Jun’s leadership the organization has succeeded in getting more than 500 companies to disclose to the public their plan and efforts to clean up their facilities. Ma Jun is now working collaboratively with major brands such as Wal-Mart, Nike, GE, Coca Cola, Siemens, Vodafone, H&M, Adidas, Sony, Unilever, Levi’s and Lenovo, all who now regularly reference the maps and self-regulate.

Ma’s most recent high-profile effort involved Apple, one of 29 companies named in a 2010 Green IT report about heavy metal pollution in China—and the only one that did not respond, citing a long-term policy not to disclose its supplier information. He led a coalition of NGOs to launch a “Poison Apple” campaign to protest the company’s lack of supply chain oversight. In September 2011, after a year and a half of silence, Apple approached Chinese environmental groups and began to drive its suppliers to clean up their practices. Ma Jun and his partners continue to communicate with Apple representatives on a regular basis.

The Goldman Prize has also posted a nice video about Ma Jun’s work in China.

Just yesterday, the media announced that Apple has agreed to an environmental audit of a supplier facility in China as the result of efforts by Ma Jun and his network of partners.

I had the fortune to work with Ma Jun in recent years on a variety of initiatives, including an analysis of environmental transparency in 113 Chinese cities (see also, here and here), and saw first-hand the tremendous impact he is having on China’s environment.

There will be numerous media reports out today about the critical work Ma Jun has done to drive better environmental performance in China.  I’ll link to some of these down the road.

But for now:  congratulations to Ma Jun for a much deserved honor!

See the Goldman Prize site for information about each of the 6 prize winners for 2012.

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