New Internationalist

Spanners in the works!

Issue 347

Strategies for taking on corporate power.

Delegitimize & dismantle

  • Who are these guys, anyway? Movements fighting global corporate capitalism are questioning the right of corporations to exist at all and seeking better ways to organize economically, using principles of participatory democracy and subsidiarity (decisions to be taken at the lowest possible level). Popular protest has shone a light on and delegitimized élite gatherings such as the World Economic Forum (see> - The Naked Lobbyist).
  • Get out, and stay out Communities have kicked out corporate malefactors. Examples in India include the Quit Monsanto campaign, the removal of Dupont’s chemical plant in Goa, and of Union Carbide after the Bhopal disaster.

Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) leads the way in contesting the legal authority of corporations to govern.

POCLAD, PO Box 246, S Yarmouth, MA 02664-0246, US. Tel: +1 508 398 1145 E-mail: [email protected]>>

New Economics Foundation (NEF) – innovative ideas for new corporate models. NEF, Cinnamon House, 6-8 Cole St, London SE1 4YK, UK. Tel: +44 20 7089 2800 Email: [email protected]>>


  • Revoking corporate charters Campaigns for a new corporate paradigm are gathering pace in the US. People are reclaiming their right to participate in decisions about whether or not specific corporations should be granted the authority or licence to operate at all. US towns have passed local laws outlawing corporations with a history of social or environmental law-breaking.
  • Limited liability laws – these ‘limit’ claims against invididuals for the wrongdoing of the corporation for which they work, and are being challenged.


  • Corporate accountability strategies include demanding adherence to Codes of Conduct, binding international rules for business on corporate responsibility, adherence to International Labour Organization workers standards. Enforcement remains difficult.
  • Lawsuits in particular class-action legal suits, can provide some redress. Encouraging signs include workers from developing countries sueing companies in their country of origin over abuses. Anti-monopoly laws such as those used to attempt to break up Microsoft in the US are of use, but have national not global reach. Friends of the Earth points out that while corporations increasingly take control of industries and services previously run by governments, they are only legally accountable to their shareholders. Join their campaign for binding corporate rules and send a message to the Earth Summit:>

Social responsibility

  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives for corporations to behave in a socially and environmentally responsible manner through reporting and transparency. Such a voluntary approach is limited to the parameters the company sets for itself.
  • Shareholder activism Concerned people buy shares in companies whose activities they want to affect and then raise issues in shareholder meetings. As the chair of a UK company remarked: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but institutional shareholders can fire me.’ Many public interest groups – unions, for example – are already shareholders via their pension funds in major companies with poor social and environmental records and can use this to great effect. August 31 is a global day of action against a corporate UN, held at the same time as the UN’s World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesberg. Activists will protest that corporations are co-opting ‘sustainable development’ for big business.

UN-Corporated campaign, A SEED Europe, PO Box 92066, 1090 AB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
E-mail: [email protected]>>

The Campaigners’ Guide to Financial Markets by Nicholas Hildyard and Mark Mansley (Corner House, 2001) is the best guide yet to putting pressure on companies and financial institutions.

Corner House, Station Road, Sturminster Newton, Dorset DT10 1YJ, UK.>
E-mail: [email protected]>


Corporate Watch Excellent website with reports by sector and company.>

CorpWatch Includes a guide to researching corporations.>

Corporate Europe Observatory Invaluable researchers keeping an eye on corporate Europe and global trade lobbyists.>

Corporate critic online Subscription-based corporate database run by Ethical Consumer Research Association.>

Business and human rights Extensive coverage of lawsuits against companies internationally, shareholder initiatives, and more.>

Endgame Research Services Analysis of the ‘corporate consensus’ and detailed research on corporate America.>

Multinational Monitor Pioneering monthly US periodical.>

Transnationale Comprehensive, well-organized database on everything from corporate lobby group membership to ethical shopping guides. Multilingual.>

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This article was originally published in issue 347

New Internationalist Magazine issue 347
Issue 347

More articles from this issue

  • A tale of two coups

    July 1, 2002

    What happens when a country offends transnationals? Greg Palast reveals the suppressed story of the military coup in Venezuela and compares it with the international financiers’ coup in Argentina.

  • The Naked Lobbyist

    July 1, 2002

    Corporate Europe Observatory uncovers the mightiest business lobby groups you’ve never heard of.

  • Earth summit for sale

    July 1, 2002

    On the eve of the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, Katharine Ainger finds out how the UN learned to stop worrying and love big business; PLUS deconstructing corporate eco-speak, with help from Orwell.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

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– Emma Thompson –

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