Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Workers of Polar Unite…In Defense of Capitalism!

Reading Time: < 1 minuteHow a Venezuelan company defied the expropriators.
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Ready to move in: A Venezuelan soldier guards the main entrance of the Polar plant in Calabozo, Venezuela, just days before President Hugo Chávez threatened expropriation in March 2009. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty

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Over the past decade, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has expropriated some 1,000 firms of all sizes, both foreign-owned and domestically held. Yet one very large and highly visible Venezuelan company remains standing: Empresas Polar.

The family-owned Venezuelan food and beverage sector–focused company survived by drawing on the support of workers, consumers and communities, managing to withstand the insults and pressures emanating from the presidential palace.

The story of Empresas Polar provides a useful object lesson in how one company turned its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs into a successful business defense against a powerful, predatory regime. And it demonstrates how companies that have focused on improving the economic and social conditions of their stakeholders—employees, communities and consumers—can protect themselves against expropriation and make avaricious governments contemplating seizure of company assets think twice before risking social backlash…

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