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not all is equal. what choice will you make?

Chiquita CEO pays the price for attacking Canada’s ethical oil

Jamie Ellerton August 22, 2012

Bananas are the third most popular fruit in the world. And no wonder: they’re delicious. So how do you take one of the biggest banana producing companies in the world and find a way to make its profits just… disappear?

Here’s how: You hire Fernando Aguirre and let him alienate an export market of 33 million people by announcing your company will boycott one of their most important industries.

That’s what happened at Chiquita, the name nearly synonymous with bananas. Chiquita has announced that it is replacing Aguirre as chairman and CEO; as the Wall Street Journal reported “directors decided to replace him due to dissatisfaction over the company’s lengthy earnings decline.” Most recently, Aguirre managed to turn $78 million in last year’s earnings for the second quarter, into a paltry $6 million profit the same quarter this year.

At least some of that loss must have been the result of Aguirre’s bizarre decision to poke a finger in Canada’s eye by announcing that Chiquita wouldn’t be using oil from our country’s vital oilsands sector. Aguirre had rashly agreed to force Chiquita shareholders to submit to a boycott pressure campaign from the extreme American activist group, ForestEthics, which has been badgering Fortune 500 companies to join their futile, wrongheaded battle to keep Canadian oil out of the U.S., and Americans dependent instead on OPEC’s conflict oil.

Aguirre proved that when you’re in business to serve a fringe band of anti-oil, anti-Canadian extremists, and not your actual shareholders and customers, you risk not remaining a Fortune 500 company for long. Chiquita’s decision to boycott Canadian oil unleashed a massive backlash here in Canada, and a counter boycott, started right here at We ran radio ads highlighting Chiquita’s awful record of supporting terrorists and other human rights abuses, without even having to get into the company’s dodgy environmental track record.

Federal MPs, including cabinet ministers Jason Kenney and Rona Ambrose went to Twitter to denounce Chiquita’s foolish attack on Canadian jobs and businesses. So did Alberta opposition leader Danielle Smith. We held an anti-Chiquita demonstration outside grocery stores. The Canadian Trucking Alliance protested, calling Chiquita’s decision uninformed. Businesses across the country began announcing they would no longer serve Chiquita products to their customers.

As the widely respected Economist magazine reported a few months ago, Chiquita’s owners paid dearly for Aguirre’s dumb boycott decision, which “may have pleased environmentalists, but it infuriated Canadians who depend on the oil industry.” The boycott, it said was “said to be costing the company a fortune. Chiquita would not quantify its losses.”

Now we have a sense of those losses: vanishing profits, and a CEO tossed aside, after proving far too keen to suck up to radicals — in exchange for ticking off an entire nation rightly proud of its excellent ethical and environmental record.

Hopefully Chiquita’s next boss will be smart enough to make winning back Canadian customers one of his earliest priorities. But even if Chiquita — which, after getting caught funding terrorist groups has proven itself to be of questionable principle, anyway — never does get around to fixing this colossal screw-up, there’s reason for Canadians to be encouraged by what became of Fernando Aguirre. After all, ForestEthics is still trying to bully other companies, like Dole and Wal-Mart into making the same stupid, anti-Canadian decision that Chiquita made. And you can probably imagine that not many Fortune 500 CEOs are right now feeling eager to risk attacking Canada and potentially finding themselves like Fernando Aguirre: with a record of bad earnings and out of a job.

Comments (2)

  1. Jason Kenny for prime minister he just keeps talking my language. True Canadian a proud of it! The rest of Ottawa start paying attention, we want spines in our politicians.

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