03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

An Open Letter to Chevron's New CEO

Mr. John S. Watson
Incoming Chief Executive Officer
Chevron Corporation

Dear Mr. Watson:

Congratulations on your promotion to the helm of Chevron. I am writing on behalf of Rainforest Action Network to make you an offer.

Late last month, on October 24th, tens of thousands of citizens in 181 countries participated in one of the most widespread demonstrations in our planet's history. At over 5,200 events around the world, people joined together to inspire strong leadership on the climate crisis from the world's top political and business leaders. Please see the photos at

Earlier in October, members of Rainforest Action Network's staff and Board of Directors returned from an investigation in northern Ecuador. We toured many of Texaco's former drilling sites and waste pits, and met with medical professionals and family members who have paid an enormous price for decades of oil-related contamination by your company.

These two issues -- climate change and the environmental and human rights impacts of Chevron's operations -- are likely to define your tenure as Chief Executive Officer. How will you respond?

It might be tempting to maintain your current posture. After all, your company is a highly successful global enterprise in a very profitable industry. But you must realize that Chevron is falling behind other businesses and many political leaders who are taking a leadership position on climate change. Furthermore, your company is drawing increasing criticism -- unnecessarily -- for failing to rectify the human rights and environmental disaster that was left behind in Ecuador.

Let me acknowledge the obvious. I'm not an oil-industry executive. As the leader of an environmental and human rights organization, I focus much more on how to clean up dirty industries than how to keep a company such as yours healthy in a competitive business environment. But I do know that Chevron is not the first company faced with the need to balance strong profits and principled leadership. My organization has worked with dozens of other successful businesses who align their core business strategies with strong social and environmental values. Please don't ignore this opportunity.

Taking the following steps will only strengthen your company's future. First, Chevron will benefit financially when it adopts more aggressive strategies to provide clean energy to a carbon-constrained world. At the same time, your company will restore its reputation and avoid future damage to its brand when it accepts its moral obligation to clean up its toxic legacy in Ecuador. Finally, Chevron would be positioned as a genuine global leader when it develops a global environment and human rights policy that prevents similar controversies in the future.

Here's our offer: come with us to Ecuador. Chevron's new leader should witness first-hand the extent to which your company's former sites remain contaminated. It would seem prudent as the new CEO to determine for yourself whether Chevron's legal team is providing accurate information, but on a more personal level, showing genuine concern for the suffering of thousands of families throughout the region would give life to the Chevron slogan of "human energy".

We do not make these requests lightly. We know that it is indeed possible to do well by doing good. We are proud of our track record of working with corporate leaders to produce innovative solutions to complex problems. We would much prefer working with your company to address the challenges laid before you, rather than pressuring Chevron's shareholders, customers, and employees to compel you to take action.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience to discuss these issues. I sincerely hope you will join us for a visit to the region, and I look forward to speaking with you soon.


Michael Brune
Executive Director
Rainforest Action Network