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

The new Global Corporate Law

How transnational corporations have succeeded in replacing rule of law with Global Corporate law, using a multitude of norms, treaties and agreements  - most recently the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership - to secure their rights to profit above human rights.

Political Capture by the Financial Industry

How did the financial sector succeed escaping censure and even effective regulation  despite the global economic crisis? Through the case study of the proposed Financial Transaction Tax, Kalaitzake looks at how the financial sector succeeded in capturing policy and politicians and how we might challenge their power.

The True Stakes of Internet Governance

Many people understand how the Internet has revolutionised society, but have we really grasped the power implications? Richard Hill shows how US policy-makers have used the ad hoc ‘multi-stakeholder’ governance of the Internet for political and economic ends.

Gambling on Hunger and Climate Change

Financial speculation has not just rewarded bankers; it has played a major role in fuelling hunger, land dispossession and climate change. Yet the financial sector innovates false financial ‘solutions’ to the very problems it creates.