About Corporate Power

6 July 2009

The Corporate Power project is part of the Economic Justice, Corporate Power and Alternatives Programme. TNI’s Corporate Power project seeks to develop analysis and proposals on how to dismantle corporate power. It plans to bring about a People's Treaty on the operations of TNCS that will include a call for an International body that can impose binding legal obligations on TNCs and end corporate impunity for ecological, economic and social crimes.

A key part of our Corporate Power work is in supporting the campaign 'Stop Corporate Impunity which has its own website here.

Activities in 2012

A focus on corporate power has characterised the work of TNI in partnership with the Enlazando Alternativas Europe-Latin America bi-regional network over the past several years. This stage of work culminated in the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) Madrid Session in 2010. The in-depth documentation of 45 cases presented to the PPT on strategic sectors of the economy - extractives (oil, gas and minerals); agri-food chain; water and electricity; work, financial services and banks – established the existence of systemic violations of human rights, people’s rights and rights of nature characterized as economic and ecological crimes. These range from acute environmental destruction, to toxic pollution, displacement and dispossession of communities, destruction of livelihoods, denial of access to basic goods and services, violation of labour rights and the assassination of workers, trade unionists, and human rights defenders. The judgement of the PPT Madrid Session concluded with a call to develop binding obligations on the operations of TNCs and the need to establish an international body to judge and sanction TNCs. The Permanent People's Tribunal and joint work have drawn attention to key elements that underly the growth in corporate power and their evasion of responsibility for their crimes:

  • the architecture of impunity – the policies and mechanisms of de-regulation imposed by Free Trade Agreements, Bilateral Investment Treaties and the multilateral international regime of Trade and Investment policy represented in the WTO, IMF and WB which have enshrined corporate rights above responsibilities; 
  • the Lex Mercatoria (international commercial law), which has enshrined the principle of freedom for financial markets and corporate trade, preventing governments from acting in the public interest; 
  • the consistent marginalising and eroding of efforts in the UN to regulate TNCs – resulting in a weak, voluntary and ineffective Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach that leaves people without a recourse to justice for corporate abuses; 
  • and the existence of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) – a Tribunal under the auspices of the World Bank which only allows TNCs to bring governments to arbitration for any attempts to control their activities that are perceived to threaten their profits.

Consultations with social movements and civil society networks have taken this work forward in activities which took place in 2011 - Brussels (Nov), Durban (Dec), Montevideo (Dec), and in 2012 - Porto Alegre (Jan), Marseilles (March), Johannesburg (May). From these consultations, a global campaign was developed and launched together with 100 movements and networks at the Rio+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012 that is aimed at dismantling corporate power and ending corporate impunity.

Recent publications from Corporate Power

Anglo American’s dirty energy lobby and its false climate solutions

Climate talks in Lima will be subject to intense lobbying by some of the biggest industrial polluters. They not only cause serious social and environmental conflicts where they extract fossil fuels, their capture of decision-making also prevents a real solution to the climate crisis.

Corporate Conquistadors

An examination of the destructive environmental record of Repsol, Glencore Xstrata and Enel-Endesa in Latin America and worldwide is clear evidence that transnational corporations should have no place in decision-making around the climate.

Big Corporations, the Bali Package and Beyond

This sequel to the “Tailored for Sharks” report delves deeper into the role the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its legal system play in the corporate architecture that benefits and protects interests of Transnational Corporations (TNCs); details concrete examples of TNCs behind trade disputes; and presents the post-Bali corporate roadmap. 

Susan George Classics

The Transnational Institute brings together Susan George’s oeuvre in this beautiful handmade boxed set of her six classic books.