The last few decades have witnessed a dramatic capture of public policy by transnational corporations (TNCs) which has undermined democracy and increased the profits of a small few at the expense of the vast majority of people and the environment. The Transnational Institute has challenged corporate power for several decades, setting up the Transnational Information Exchange in 1978, leading struggles against privatisation of water and carbon by corporations, and in recent years working with allies in Europe and Latin America to hold Permanent Tribunals to expose corporate crimes.

Transnational Corporations (TNCs) operate at a global level and have used their economic and political power to establish a corporate led paradigm where profits are maximized and fundamental human needs are marginalized in a world of increased and deepening poverty.  TNCs currently operate in an international legal and juridical “investor protection” framework which allows them to act with impunity and commit widespread violations of human rights and people’s rights. 

The current global economic and financial crisis has highlighted the role of TNCs as a root cause of the crisis with its devastating impacts on basic human needs – in such areas as food sovereignty, employment, livelihoods, land use and climate change. As the crisis deepens, TNCs, including particularly the Banking & Financial sector continue business as usual generating even greater margins of profit.

However, the role of TNCs not only in the crisis, but as engines of “economic development” is increasingly contested - not least by affected communities and social movements - but also by economists and other analysts who conclude that the current role of TNCs is unsustainable in terms of human well being and sustainability of the planet.

In this context TNI’s Corporate Power area of work analyses the architecture of impunity and government complicity that has been constructed around the TNCs allowing their operations to constitute economic and ecological crimes. At the same time, the programme seek to facilitates the formulation of alternative policy approaches, including the development of binding obligations on TNCs and the construction of a framework that can sanction and bring TNCs to justice that would restore and safeguard the fundamental rights of people and the environment above investor profit.