Global Policy Forum

General Analysis on Transnational Corporations

Who controls the brave new globalized world? States or Transnational Corporations (TNCs)? This page keeps track of the argument: how much power do TNCs have? What are the areas where they exercise their power? And, most importantly, how can citizens gain democratic control over these institutions?



Articles and Documents

Key Documents 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 20112010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | Archived Articles

Key Documents

Transparency International 2006 Bribe Payers Index (BPI) Analysis Report (October 4, 2006)

Transparency International's Bribe Payers Index looks at the tendency of companies from 30 leading exporting countries to engage in bribery abroad. While companies from the wealthiest countries generally rank in the top half of the index, countries score within a relatively small range, indicating "a considerable propensity for companies of all nationalities to bribe when operating abroad." While OECD governments demand improved governance in poor countries, they fail to sufficiently clamp down on their own companies' shameful contribution to undermine these good governance efforts.

Making Corporations Accountable (December 2000)

Discusses voluntary codes and regulatory approaches to the accountability of global corporate investment. A background paper for the UN Financing for Development process, written by James A. Paul and Jason Garred of Global Policy Forum.

Report on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Related Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights (February 15, 2005)

This United Nations report provides an overview of the existing corporate social responsibility initiatives and standards. It also discusses the UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with regard to Human Rights, and makes recommendations on how to advance the dialogue between states, transnational corporations and other stakeholders.

UN Norms on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights (August 2003)

The UN Sub-commission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights adopted norms stating that "transnational corporations ..., as organs of society, are also responsible for promoting and securing ... human rights," including the right to development. While those norms signify an important step towards codification of corporate accountability, they do not include binding monitoring mechanisms.

Multinational Corporations in Least Developed Countries

A background guide from the North American Invitational Model United Nations (Georgetown International Relations Association, Inc.) on the problems inherent in close relationships between the UN and multinational corporations.


The Danish Institute for Human Rights has published a working paper on “The State Duty to Protect Against Business-Related Human Rights Abuses”, which provides an extensive analysis of all of the guiding principles under pillars 1 (The State Duty to Protect) and 3 (Access to Remedy) of the United Nations’ Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Human Rights and Business. The paper considers state duties and state access to remedy in the following three parts: overall issues such as the state’s approach to its duty to protect, state regulatory and policy functions and the question of extraterritoriality (part 1); specific issues covered by the UNGPs such as state businesses, privatization and public procurement, conflict-affected areas and international economic agreements concluded by states (part 2); and finally state duties pertaining to access to remedy (part 3). Hence this working paper covers all the guiding principles under the UNGPs Pillar 1 as well as the relevant state principles under Pillar 3.

Resolution on binding human rights standards passes in Human Rights Council (June 27, 2014)

The Treaty Alliance just published a Press Release on the adoption of a resolution initiating a process to develop legally binding human rights standards for transnational corporations. The resolution sponsored by Ecuador and South Africa was adopted yesterday by the United Nations Human Rights Council after fierce negotiations. While the EU and others already expressed that they will not cooperate in the implementation of the resolution, the decision could nevertheless mean a big step towards bringing justice to the victims of ongoing human rights abuses by transnational corporations. (Treaty Alliance)

Stop Corporate Impunity Now! (June 16, 2014)

From 10 to 27 June, 2014 the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) takes place in Geneva/Switzerland. Among other things, UNHRC will discuss the adoption of a resolution to develop a legally binding instrument on the human rights conduct of Transnational Corporations (TNCs). Responding to this, the Dismantle Corporate Power Campaign calls for a full week of activities from June 23 to 27 to end corporate impunity and ongoing violations of laws and human rights through TNCs. During the week of mobilization – a collective effort of several international networks, social movements and Civil Society Organizations like FIAN International – different events and meetings to enforce justice for those affected by corporate violations and crimes will be organized. According to the campaign, disasters like the collapse of a factory burrying more than 1100 workers in Bangladesh are reason enough for the UNHRC to adopt the binding treaty. (Dismantle Corporate Power Campaign)

Chanel, Tupperware to accelerate women's empowerment (June 2, 2014)

UN Women launches a new Private Sector Leadership Advisory Council. The council, which is expected to offer advice to accelerate women's economic empowerment, end violence against women and help to close the funding gap for UN Women, is comprised of ten corporate executives from companies ranging from Tupperware to Chanel to Anglo American. The council is supposed to provide the foundation for further "Golden Triangle" partnerships, as they are being called, between corporations, governments and civil society. The council will meet twice a year to review progress and provide strategic input to guide advocacy and resource mobilization efforts. (UN Women)

Big Data puts farmers on alert (May 5, 2014)

A new article, published in Rural21 - the International Journal for Rural Development, deals with new data information systems introduced by seed companies Monsanto and DuPont in the USA. Author Mike Gardner indicates that American farmers are on alert due to new data services. It is not just that the new technology collects and stores information from farmers, but it also uploads data to seed providers. Seed giants like Monsanto can use these data for analyzing and optimizing their planting. However, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation this may lead to inter alia increasing competition between farmers and higher seed prices, as well as greater benefits for seed companies. (Rural21)

Understand power structures to overturn them (January 30, 2014)

In its third annual ‘State of Power’ report, Transnational Institute (TNI) uses vibrant infographics and intriguing essays to expose and analyse the principal power-brokers that have caused financial, economic, social and ecological crises worldwide. This collection of essays and accompanying infographics draws attention to key dimensions of power and its exercise in our globalised world. The contributions highlight how power is hidden and concealed. (TNI)


Peoples’ Forum requests binding instrument to regulate Transnational Corporations (November 28, 2013)

A joint statement was drafted by participants of the first annual People's Forum on Human Rights and Businesses calling for an international legally binding instrument on human rights, transnational corporations and other business enterprises. The Forum demands the establishement of monitoring mechanisms that include the supervision of extraterritorial obilgations of transnational corporations. (FIAN)

Without Rules: A Failed Approach to Corporate Accountability (January 31, 2013)

Reports on human rights violations by corporations operating globally raise concerns about the effectiveness of existing oversight measures. Human Rights Watch argues that voluntary approaches are inadequate as they encourage ad-hoc actions against human rights violations by both corporation and government, advocating for enforceable standards and greater government oversight. States where companies are based are responsible for safeguarding extra-territorial human rights, particularly when the host country government lacks the necessary capacity to scrutinize operations. While the 2012 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights raise good options, the principles themselves are less ambitious than other human rights standards and do not require mandatory commitments. Anti-bribery approaches employed by the UN and OECD and increasing corporate disclosure are good starting points for improving corporate accountability. (Human Rights Watch)


NAFTA on Steroids (June 27, 2012)

As the United States and eight Pacific Rim nations are negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement in San Diego, critics are saying that TPP is mainly about new corporate rights, not trade. The negotiations and their texts are open only to government negotiators and a selected group of about 600 corporate lobbyists. Through such secretive process, the officials in charge of the TPP can ensure the completion of controversial clauses such as financial deregulation in the Pacific Rim and establishment of corporate tribunals which permit transnational corporations to overrule local courts and other government agencies in disputes. The implementation of the TPP will only serve to strengthen corporate power at the expense of the public. (The Nation)

Greenwashing the Olympics (July 4, 2012)

On July 28, protesters will gather in London to protest against the corporate atmosphere surrounding the Olympics games. Rio Tinto, BP, and Dow Chemical are among the Olympics’ sponsors involved in controversial activities with destructive environmental and social impacts. Demonstrators have accused companies of using this sporting event to preserve and expand their markets by posing as supporters of the environment and benefiting from the temporary corporation tax exemption. The London Olympics organizing committee remains reluctant to engage in discussion with demonstrators as the corporate takeover of the Games unfolds. (CorpWatch Blog

Brazil Bars Oil Workers From Leaving After Spill (March 18, 2012)

In November 2011, oil leaked from an offshore field controlled by oil giant Chevron in Brazil. Now, in early March 2012, a Brazilian court has ordered 17 employees from Chevron to surrender their passports, barring them from leaving Brazil while authorities file criminal charges. Criminal charges in connection with environmental crimes could result in up to 20 years in prison for each defendant. Pointing to the example of BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, prosecutors and environmental officials argue that stiff penalties are needed to press Chevron to adopt strict procedures for preventing and dealing with spills. The scrutiny over offshore oil leakages and Chevron’s November spill rises interesting questions regarding Brazil’s posture towards foreign oil companies, the distribution of revenues made through oil extraction and corporate accountability. (New York Times)

Barclays Bankers Bonanza (March 15, 2012)

In 2011, Barclays CEO’s Barclays CEO’s Rich Ricci, Jerry del Misses and Bob Diamond took home paychecks amounting to $15 million. Following news earlier this year that RBS received $70 bn from taxpayer’s funds, this is yet another scandal that became public in recent months thanks to a pact made between the UK government and the banking sector, as part of Project Merlin signed in Feb 2011. This CorpWatch article exposes the largest salary and bonus scandals of the past few years. (CorpWatch)

Deepwater Oil Drilling Picks Up Again as BP Disaster Fades (March 4, 2012)

Almost two years after an explosion on BP’s oil platform that sent millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, deepwater drilling is spreading with regained strength. Despite the ongoing risks and the repeated occurrence of accidents, BP and other oil companies are intensifying their exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Production will soon surpass the levels attained before the accident. Instead of merely presenting oil companies as evil, profit oriented corporations, this New York Times article draws attention to one of the key reasons underlying the resumption of drilling: the high demand for energy worldwide. (New York Times)

Coca-Cola Squeezes Workers in Italy’s Orange Groves (March 2, 2012)

A recently published report of the UK-based Ecologist discloses the hellish working conditions in Coca Cola southern Italian orange groves. Workers typically earn 25€ a day, five of which they pay to gangmasters for transport to and from the orange farms. The workers, most of whom come from some of the world’s poorest countries such as Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast, live in slums and have no water, sewage or electricity connection. In this op-ed article, Tom Pjilipott takes the Ecologist’s report as a starting point to argue that the root of the worker’s problems lie in the seize of Coca Cola, size that allows the multinational company to dictate prices, squeezing plantation owners and workers. (Mother Jones)

Occupying Corporations: How to Cut Corporate Power (February 6, 2012)

Corporations have hijacked most of the rights of people while evading citizen’s responsibilities. The most recent corporate judicial takeover of constitutional rights is the US Supreme Court’s rule that corporations are protected by the first Amendment, being granted the right of free speech to advertise and influence elections. In this op-ed article, professor Bill Quigley argues that in order to strip corporations from personhood and cut them down in size, US national laws must be radically changed. (Common Dreams)

An Extended Country by Country Reporting Standard: A Policy Proposal to the EU (January 2012)

Developing countries must mobilize domestic resources for development. The extraction of natural resources has often been viewed as the greatest economic potential for socioeconomic development. However, most oil and gas extraction operations are controlled by multinational companies that can easily shift profits out of host countries. This report from Publish What You Pay Norway advocates for regulative policies that require the extractive industry to publish payments on a country by country basis and introduce a country by country reporting. (Publish What You Pay Norway)


Coca-Cola Accused of Propping up Notorious Swaziland Dictator (January 2, 2012)

The impact Multinational Corporations (MNCs) have on the socio-economic development of the countries whose production facilities they control is highly disputed. While activists denounce low wages and an increased dependency and vulnerability of the host-economy, defenders of MNCs argue that receiving any pay is better than not earning one at all. By presenting the effect Coca Cola’s presence has on Swaziland’s development - an impoverished kingdom ruled by one of Africa's most notorious dictators - this article illustrates why the costs the population has to pay greatly outweigh all the benefits the company promised and failed to deliver. (Guardian)

Corporate Japan Rocked by Scandal at Olympus (November 9, 2011)

A scandal involvingoptics-manufacturer Olympus is rocking corporate Japan. Olympus used a series of inflated acquisition payments of over $1billion to hide losses, a maneuver known as “tobashi.”  Companies use such tobashi schemes to hide losses on bad assets, selling them to other companies only to buy them back later.  The idea is to keep losses hidden until company finances improve. While Olympus lost three quarters of its value, the impact of this scandal far surpasses the company’s losses, exposing the weakness in (Japan’s) financial regulatory system and corporate governance. (New York Times)

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world (October 24, 2011)

The idea that a few transnational corporations (TNCs) control the global economy might not seem like news to the Occupy Wall Street movement. But now, an analysis by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich empirically identified such a network of power. By combining the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among 43,000 of the world's TNCs, the study reveals that a relatively small group of TNCs, mainly banks, control almost 80% of the global economy. As the world learned in 2008, the tight interconnections between the most powerful global players results in a highly unstable system. If one company suffers distress, this propagates. Science confirmed the protesters' worst fears. (New Scientist)

It's Business as Usual When it Comes to Companies Paying Bribes (November 2, 2011)

According to the latest Bribe Payers Index (BPI) published by Transparency International, little progress has been made in tackling corruption following the adoption of the UN Convention against corruption in 2003. Companies around the world continue to routinely pay bribes when doing business abroad. This index provides a more holistic approach to examining corruption. Unlike traditional analysis, the BPI takes into account reports about corrupt public officials in developing countries as well as corrupt officials on the “supply side of corruption.” (Guardian)

Exclusive: BP to Risk Worst Ever Oil Spill in Shetlands Drilling (October 12, 2011

In an attempt to open up a rich new oil province to replace the dwindling productivity of the North Sea, BP prepares to drill more than 4,000 feet down the Atlantic in wildlife-rich British waters off the Shetland Islands. Capping a gushing well at such depths, however, is extremely risky. The worst-case scenario for a spill would involve a leak of 75,000 barrels a day for 140 days –- the world's biggest pollution disaster. John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, stated that even BP is quietly planning for the possibility of the world's worst ever oil spill happening. "Instead of chasing the last drops of oil from one of our country's most sensitive and important natural environments,” Sauven maintains, “ministers should be developing a comprehensive plan to get us off the oil hook." (Independent)

The Financial Secrecy Index (October 11, 2011)

The Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index (FSI) is an important tool to understand the magnitude of illicit financial flows and global financial secrecy. The FSI measures the secrecy of jurisdictions and the scale of their activities, to create a ranking of the countries that most aggressively provide secrecy in global finance. What the FSI reveals is that the world’s most important providers of financial secrecy are not, as commonly assumed, small, palm-fringed islands, but rather some of the world’s biggest and wealthiest countries. Moreover, the Index also suggests that OECD member countries and their satellites are the main recipients of illicit financial flows that keep developing countries poor. (Global Policy Forum)

 Calling the Corporations to Account (October 7, 2011)

Since the 1990’s, the power and economic might of multinational corporations has rapidly expanded. Corporations continue to resist mandatory regulation, insisting that voluntary codes, such as the Global Compact, are better suited to control corporate concentration, power and abuse. No proposal for global regulation of corporate activity is yet on the table, however. The Rio+20 Conference provides the opportunity to begin a process to control corporations at international level. (EcoNexus)

Environmental Disaster in The Gulf Of Mexico: The Escalation of BP's Liability (October 5, 2011)

A key investigative report on the April 2010 oil-disaster concluded that BP violated federal regulations, and made careless decisions during the cementing of the well nearly two kilometers underwater. Moreover, several studies have confirmed the deep health and ecological impact of BP's oil disaster. The oil giant, however, continues to evade liability. Dean Blanchard, a seafood distributor on Grand Isle, illustrates the extent of BPs effrontery by claiming that if you are caught cheating at your wife "you'd want BP to explain to your wife how it didn't happen.” (Global Research)

Shell Accused of Fuelling Violence in Nigeria by Paying Rival Militant Gangs (October 2, 2011)

According to an investigation by the oil industry watchdog “Platform,” Shell has fuelled armed conflict in Nigeria by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to feuding militant groups. Shell pays whoever controls access to oil infrastructure, even if it is well known that those controlling wells are members of criminal gangs. By providing lucrative contracts to opposing militant groups, Shell exacerbates local violence and “becomes complicit in the cycle of violence (...) and gross human right abuses.” (Guardian)

Statement to the Delegations on the Human Rights Council 2011, 17th Session, Agenda Item 3 (May 27, 2011)

A group of human rights activists criticized the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” because the document insufficiently addresses the governance gaps created by globalization. These gaps make monitoring and remedying corporate human rights abuses by transnational corporations more difficult. In order to prevent corporate human rights abuses, the organizations recommend specific and binding mechanisms for states to more effectively hold corporations legally responsible.


Industrial Accidents and Global Inequity: the Contrasting Cases of Bhopal and BP Horizon Deepwater (September 13, 2010)

When Union Carbide's chemical plant in Bhopal malfunctioned, over 4000 people died; 300, 000 of Bhopal's population were injured and the environmental consequences are still present. When the BP oil platform Deepwater Horizon sank, 11 people were killed and the damage caused to the Mexican Gulf's marine wildlife is beyond measure. Both cases show large corporations that have betrayed their responsibility. But BP has been exposed to a far more aggressive critique from the government than Union Carbide was. Damage on the US is clearly taken more seriously than damage in Bhopal. (Share the Worlds Resources)

The Case against Corporate Social Responsibility (August 23, 2010)

Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, is frequently put forward by transnational corporations and governments as a way of altering corporate behavior and improving records on such issues as human rights, labor standards, and the environment. CSR favors voluntary codes of conduct and emphasizes a "double bottom line," which supposedly creates a dual mandate for firms to pursue both profits and social well-being. This is naïve and unrealistic. Ultimately, the only way to protect the public from inevitable corporate abuses is legislating government regulation that places people ahead of profits. (The Wall Street Journal)

Towards an International Tribunal on Economic Crimes (July 20, 2010)

Voluntary codes of conduct are not enough to stop large transnational corporations from abusing the environment and human rights. Crimes committed by TNCs often go unpunished since the concept of economic crimes has no international legal definition. To get past this problem, the Enlazando Alternativas network calls for the creation of an international tribunal on economic crimes. The network wants this sort of abuse labeled as "crimes against humanity." Though small steps are being made towards an international tribunal of this kind, the pace is painfully slow and so far, TNCs optional good-will rarely gets priority over profit. (Share the Worlds Resources)

Corporate Greenwash at EU Environment Meeting? (June 3, 2010)

At the "Green Week" annual European Union conference, Coca-Cola was a sponsor, presented itself as a champion of environmental protection a. Coca-Cola, however, causes serious damage to water supplies and soil as a result of its bottling operations in India. This raises questions about the ability of polluting companies to influence the environmental debate in Europe. (IPS)

Controlling Transnational Corporations (March 31, 2010)

According to the UN, most global trade is controlled by a few hundred corporations. Many of these mega-corporations are economically larger than some nations and thus it is difficult for developing countries to regulate them. Since the United State is home to many of the world's largest TNCs, stronger regulation in the US is key in enforcing international standards that promote the social and economic rights of those in developing countries. One of the steps towards controlling TNCs is for the United States to ratify UN and ILO conventions that promulgate labor rights and consumer protection. (FPIF)

Canada Moves to Oversee Mining Firms (March 5, 2010)

Canada may at last hold its mining firms accountable on matters of human rights and the environment.  The Canadian Parliament will consider a bill that would allow Canadians and affected communities to sue extractive companies that violate rights and environment standards. The country's main political parties have all introduced a version of a bill that regulates the operations of mining companies abroad. This is in response to allegations that Canadian mining firms have been complicit in recent criminal acts and serious violations of international norms.  Interestingly, nearly 60% of the world's mining corporations are Canadian.

Stop Private Firms Exploiting Poor States (February 5, 2010)

A Canadian Mining company, Pacific Rim, has filed a claim to sue the Government of El Salvador under a provision in the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Ironically, Canada is not even a party to the agreement. In 2009, El Salvador refused PacRim's environmental impact statement denying the company the opportunity to mine for gold. PacRim now seeks $100 million, double what El Salvador receives in US foreign aid, using its American subsidiary to take El Salvador to an arbitration panel at the World Bank. Critics argue that investment rules should allow nations the flexibility to protect their environment. If instead, investment groups can sue to override domestic laws, sovereignty has little meaning.(The Guardian)


Regulating Transnational Corporations (October 29, 2009)

Transnational Corporations (TNCs) are prime movers of the global economy. TNCs often ignore and abuse human rights, labor laws and environmental regulations especially in developing countries. The author of this article proposes an international tribunal that will oversee TNCs and insure that they act responsibly. (Pakistan Daily)


Water Pressure (June 12, 2008)

Growing pressure from NGOs and some governments is forcing transnational corporations to become environmentally responsible. Coca-Cola, which uses 2.5 liters of water to produce each liter of its products, vows to become "water neutral." Its CEO has pledged that the company will compensate for every drop of water used through conservation and recycling initiatives. However, critics argue that corporations like Coca-Cola use such campaigns to promote their image as environmentally conscious whereas in reality they do not change their practices. Coca-Cola has not set a target date to achieve its water-neutrality goal. (Time)

Why the Oil Industry Benefits from Bottled Water Sales (June 26, 2008)

The world's largest oil companies – Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon, ConocoPhillips and British Petroleum – have close ties to the bottled water industry. The oil companies supply the bottled water industry with oil-based plastics that release large amounts of toxic pollutants during production. Bottled water companies claim that their products are healthy and clean, but the connection between the oil and water industry reveals the negative environmental impact of bottled water. (AlterNet)

The Global Crisis: Food, Water and Fuel (June 5, 2008)

This Global Research article discusses the triangular relationship between water, food and fuel: three basic commodities whose prices have risen in the past few years. The article argues that price hikes do not result from the shortage of commodities, but from market manipulation by international corporations and financial institutions. Financial groups that speculate in the oil market and large private corporations that control the grain market are responsible for the global food and oil crises. The author warns that the increasing power of these non-state actors directly affects the livelihoods of millions of people.

Artificial Foods and Corporate Crops: Can We Escape the "Frankenstate"? (May 2, 2008)

This article criticizes the effect of industrial agriculture on global food security. The author points out that a few large corporations have patented or genetically modified most of the plants humans rely on for their basic needs. These corporations use chemical and genetic technologies to "dominate agricultural production from seed to stomach and to profit from every bite." In addition, industrial food production exhausts Earth's basic biological support systems, and makes the planet more vulnerable to climate change. (AlterNet)

Cargill – A Corporate Threat to Food and Farming (May 2008)

Cargill is one of a handful of corporations that control the global system of food production and agriculture. By selling farmers agricultural input, and then buying outputs for further processing, Cargill has created a worldwide agricultural system in which it is "both buyer and seller" and has near unlimited freedom to maximize profit. In this report, Food & Water Watch warns that Cargill's enormous and under-regulated influence on global agricultural trade threatens the health of consumers, family farmers, the environment and even entire economies and governments.

A New Philanthro-Capitalist Alliance in Africa? (March 31, 2008)

This article analyzes the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an initiative by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. AGRA aims to end poverty and hunger by restructuring Africa's food systems. But, this reform may ultimately serve the interests of agribusinesses like Monsanto, by creating a new market for genetically modified seeds and agrochemicals. AGRA's philanthro-capitalism overrides local agricultural techniques by focusing on global market-based "solutions." This diverts attention from the role that global markets systemically play in creating hunger and poverty in the first place. (Pambazuka)

Monsanto U: Agribusinesses Takeover of Public Schools (15 February 2008)

This Alternet article reports that the Bush administration is cutting funding for agricultural research at public universities. Universities must now rely on rich agribusiness conglomerates for research funding. While public institutions do the research, the private sector asks the questions, and influences the answers researchers give them. The author fears agricultural research will thus cater to the wishes of the private sector, resulting in "chemical-dependent, genetically modified, bio-engineered agriculture."


Hedge Funds Look to Increase Transparency (October 11, 2007)

Former deputy governor of the Bank of England Andrew Large proposes a new code of openness and accountability in hedge funds, a £180 billion industry. Large put together the code, which is voluntary, after much criticism from politicians who say that the sector is "overly-secretive" and endangers global financial stability. Investors welcome the code, but critics say that the financial world needs binding regulation. (One World Trust)

Latin American Governments and Foreign Investors (June 18, 2007)

The relations between governments and multinational companies are quickly changing in Latin America. Countries like Bolivia and Venezuela are leaving the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) as they believe it is not "transparent and impartial enough" due to the heavy influence of the World Bank and Washington. The World Bank has long used its supremacy to force governments to implement policies favored by transnational corporations at the expense of the poor. To change this situation, Bolivia raised its royalty rates on hydrocarbons leading to an increase in revenues while Venezuela raised the royalties on foreign investors making huge profits. (World Economy & Development In Brief)

Multinationals to China: No New Labor Rights (May 16, 2007)

US and European corporations in China are trying to block a new law that would improve the working conditions of workers as well as increase their power and protection. Despite China's economic growth, most Chinese workers live on the edge of poverty, earning very little and working in appalling conditions. Multinational companies sent the Chinese government extensive attacks on the proposed law even threatening to leave if the law is passed. (Multinational Monitor)

In India, Outsourcing Moves to the Top Floor (April 3, 2007)

The migration of low-skill service industry jobs to developing countries has become a common practice for many transnational corporations. However, this International Herald Tribune article reports that an increasing number are also outsourcing jobs in fields "which once epitomized the competitiveness of Western economies," such as aeronautical engineering, investment banking and drug research. Although some analysts argue that "the US will progressively become less predominant for US corporations," economists predict that this shift will rather encourage the growth of professions in the West "that must be rendered in person," like the police or clinical medicine.

"MDG Scan" to Benchmark Private Contribution (February 27, 2007)

A Dutch research organization has created an "MDG Scan" to measure the contributions of transnational corporations in achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals. While acknowledging that the scan largely ignores "the dark side of private companies," including environmental degradation and human rights violations, its creators hope that focusing on positive impacts will encourage corporations to take greater responsibility in promoting the MDGs. (Inter Press Service)

Scientists' Report Documents ExxonMobil's Tobacco-like Disinformation Campaign on Global Warming Science (January 3, 2007)

In order to delay action on climate change, ExxonMobil has given nearly US $16 million in funding to groups promoting "climate change contrarians." By financing these organizations, ExxonMobil seeks to cause confusion and doubt over global warming, labeling it "junk science." A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists compares the oil company's disinformation tactics with those of Big Tobacco in previous decades.


Secrets, Lies, and Sweatshops (November 27, 2006)

While most US retailers assert that their offshore suppliers comply with widely accepted labor codes of conduct, this BusinessWeek piece exposes a very widespread praxis of concealing labor rights abuses in Chinese factories, the largest single source of US imports. The article chronicles one example after the other of Chinese factories keeping double sets of books to fool labor standard auditors, and even using consultants to coach managers in how to mislead auditors. While US companies express regret with their Chinese suppliers' labor standard violations, factory managers complain that the retailers' continuous pressure for low prices forces the violations. Ultimately, the article highlights the problematic coexistence of humane working conditions with inexpensive clothes and electronics for US consumers.

Business Must Adapt to Realities of Earth's Ecosystems, Warns New Publication (November 22, 2006)

This piece summarizes main conclusions of 'Ecosystem Challenges and Business Implications,' a November 2006 publication by Earthwatch Institute and World Conservation Union among others. Looking at six environmental topics, including water scarcity, climate change and biodiversity, the report details how corporate business not only affects ecosystems, but also crucial ly relies upon them, a link all too often overlooked by the corporations themselves. The report urges businesses to acknowledge this inextricable link and sets out recommendations for companies to reduce their adverse environmental impacts as well as pursue new sustainable business opportunities.

Putting Teeth in Corporate Social Responsibility (November 21, 2006)

Programs such as the ‘Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative' and the ‘UN Global Compact' have helped create public debate and possibly higher levels of corporate and political awareness about human rights and environmental problems. But as the initiatives are voluntary and unsanctioned, skeptics argue they just allow companies to appear socially responsible while not fundamentally changing operations. The author of this Policy Innovations article sees a future for genuine corporate social responsibility in legally-binding loan agreements incorporating respect for human rights and environmental standards. These would exist between transnational corporations and the private banks financing them that have a "lower reputational risk tolerance."

Oil, Cash and Corruption (November 5, 2006)

The forthcoming corruption trial of US businessman James H. Giffen sheds light upon the massive bribes received by Kazakh President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, who has "amassed a fortune at the expense of an impoverished citizenry." Giffen has allegedly paid Nazarbayev US$78 billion "to buy access and influence in Kazakhstan for oil giants like Exxon Mobil, BP […] and […] Conoco-Phillips" This New York Times piece indicates that US government officials approved of Giffen's bribery. Moreover, the author highlights the obvious US hypocrisy of claiming to promote good governance and democracy across the world, while graciously receiving the kleptocratic Kazakh leader in September 2006.

Chain-Gang Economics (October 30, 2006)

In this Foreign Policy in Focus piece, Walden Bello argues that the economic relations between China and the US chain the global economy together in a "crisis of overproduction." Restrictive Chinese rules on trade and investment force transnational corporations (TNCs) operating in China to locate the majority of their production processes in the country, making the TNCs major "agents of overinvestment." At the same time, Chinese authorities continue exploiting the country's cheap labor by keeping wages down instead of expanding people's purchasing power. Thus impeding domestic consumption, China has chosen breakneck growth feeding the spending appetite of US consumers over domestic and global stability, argues Bello.

Corrupting the Fight Against Corruption (October 27, 2006)

Having himself been one of the main forces in putting corruption on the World Bank's agenda, Joseph E. Stiglitz in this piece makes recommendations for improving the bank's approach to combating corruption. Pointing out that bribe payments often come from Western based corporations, Stiglitz further calls on rich governments to tie tax deductibility for corporations to transparency in all dealings with foreign governments. Stiglitz also voices the concern of some critics that the corruption agenda is "itself corrupted" with rich governments using it to cut aid to countries that don't please them. (Project Syndicate)

Hey, Nice Clothes. But Are They Ethical? (October 13, 2006)

This Christian Science Monitor article tells how Lesotho has succeeded in giving new life to its textile business by becoming an origin of "ethical clothing." Companies "promise customers" that they do not use sweatshop labor in Sotho clothes production, and that "working conditions me[e]t high safety standards." Under rock star Bono's ‘Product Red' label, companies like Gap and Emporio Armani sell a variety of ethical goods, and give a portion of the profits to the ‘Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.' According to a representative of the Ethical Trading Initiative, "there has been a huge surge" in consumer interest in ethical fashion.

Landless Workers Movement: The Difficult Construction of a New World (September 29, 2006)

This Latin America in Movement article tells the story of farmers' struggle against dependence in a settlement in southern Brazil. When authorities gave 376 landless families access to 6,000 hectare land in 1999, the farmers, settling in agricultural villages, thought all their problems were solved. But as it turned out, they merely went from a relationship of exploitation with the landholding elite to one with multinational corporations. Switching from conventional to organic farming on part of their land, only switched dependence on technological packages to dependence on the corrupt businesses all linked to multinationals that perform the organic certification in Brazil.

Toxic Shock: How Western Rubbish Is Destroying Africa (September 21, 2006)

As Dutch trading company Trafigura Beheer offloaded 400 tons of toxic waste at a landfill near the Ivorian capital of Abidjan in August 2006, the generated fumes killed six people and forced 15,000 to seek treatment for nausea, vomiting and headaches. The incident illustrates that the practice of Western companies dumping toxic waste in poor countries continues. As rich countries' consumption of electronic equipment keeps increasing, so does the amount of electronic waste shipped to poor countries for "recycling," but ending up in landfills posing significant health risks to local residents. (Independent)

The Denial Industry (September 19, 2006)

In this extract from his latest book "Heat," George Monbiot reveals how a small group of people working for the oil and tobacco lobby specializes in challenging scientific consensus on both global warming and the health effects of smoking. According to Monbiot, US tobacco company Philip Morris was curiously the first company to pursue corporate funding of lobby groups denying human-induced climate change. By "dominating the media debate on climate change during seven or eight critical years in which urgent international talks should have been taking place," the "climate change deniers" have set back action by a decade. (Guardian)

Your Guide to Green Electronics (August 25, 2006)

Aiming to prompt a "race to the top" in environmental standards applied by electronics companies, Greenpeace has developed a scorecard assigning points to 14 leading mobile phone and computer manufacturers. Using nine separate criteria, the scorecard evaluates both how much companies do to remove toxic chemicals from their products and whether they have good recycling programs. Nokia and Dell came out "greenest," but with companies scoring an average of only 4 out of 10, the electronics industry still "has a long way to go before it can make any claims to being a green industry."

Green Logo, but BP Is Old Oil (August 12, 2006)

This New York Times article examines whether the oil company BP lives up to its "beyond petroleum" slogan, indirectly questioning CEO Lord Browne's prominence in the UN Global Compact. Recent troubling incidents include a dangerous level of corrosion on an Alaskan oil pipeline, a massive oil spill, and an accident at a BP refinery that resulted in the death of 15 workers. Although BP puts incredible effort into marketing themselves as environmentally friendly, critics such as Greenpeace point out that BP's financial commitment to the cause represents only a marginal amount of their massive profits.

The Contrarian: Are NGOs Playing Both Sides of the Human Rights Abuse Debate? (July 18, 2006)

The author of this Ethical Corporation piece argues that NGOs should not blame multinational firms for human rights violations but instead seek accountability from states. However, such an argument overlooks how big companies sometimes push governments for "favorable deals" that further corporate interests. NGOs demand that UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights John Ruggie call for "universally recognized standards and effective accountability mechanisms" in his final report.

Win or Lose in Court (Summer 2006)

Since 1993, lawyers in the US have filed 36 corporate human rights abuse suits under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), a 1789 law which extends US jurisdiction to cover violations of international law abroad. While human rights activists view the ATCA as "the only effective tool" for holding corporations accountable, only 13 cases remain ongoing compared to 20 dismissals and three out-of-court settlements. Although these figures may not represent a real threat to companies, the negative publicity generated by such procedures might encourage some businesses to improve their human rights records abroad. (Business Ethics)

It's a Gas-Funny Business in the Turkmen-Ukraine Gas Trade (April 2006)

This Global Witness report outlines the corrupt and opaque gas trade in Central Asia and the role played by intermediary companies and political leaders. Secrecy allows Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to use gas revenues for personal expenses and collude with other corrupt officials without anyone holding him accountable for the funds. The EU, Ukraine, and Russia must insist on open accounting of gas companies' revenues to eliminate corruption and secure their energy supply.

ExxonMobil in Aceh (April 17, 2006)

Michael Renner writes about Exxon's vast gas operation in Indonesia's rebellious Aceh province. Exxon's pollution, displacement of populations and complicity with military and police repression fueled conflict for many years. In the wake of the tsunami catastrophe, the central government has made important concessions to local citizen demands, including sharing of the gas revenues with the local government. But fear remains that Jakarta (and Exxon) will not honor their promises, especially when international observers depart.

Invest Globally, Stagnate Locally (April 2, 2006)

The continuous increase of corporate profits in the US and Europe fails to translate into prosperity for domestic economies and wage earners. Transnational Corporations (TNCs) maintain low wages by constantly threatening to leave the country if wage negotiations do not meet their corporate interests. The article predicts a new rise of "economic nationalism" among rich countries as a reaction to the reluctance of TNCs to pay decent wages to their workers. (New York Times)

World's First Humanitarian Insurance Policy Issued (March 6, 2006)

A small group of donor countries, including the US, contracted the private insurance company AXA to cover the risk of droughts in Ethiopia. In this pilot project developed by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Bank, an annual amount of US$930,000 would lead to immediate payments of US$7 million if rainfalls drop "significantly below historic averages." However, neither the WFP nor AXA provide details regarding the deal. Furthermore, opening humanitarian aid activities to corporate interests is a "risky business."

Promotion and Protection of Human Rights – Interim Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General (February 2006)

This report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) John Ruggie, addresses the question of human rights and transnational corporations. Ruggie writes that these companies possess "global reach and capacity," acting at a pace governments cannot match, making corporate involvement essential in curbing human rights abuses. Ruggie insists that progress has occurred in this area, yet only 80 corporations of the ‘Fortune 500' group even responded to the SRSG's survey on human rights practices.

One Death Every Minute (January 25, 2006)

The US$ 20 billion arms trade business is barely regulated. Poor and crisis-shaken countries suffer from its bloody consequences. With a UN meeting on small arms trade in June 2006, this article asks governments and NGOs to push for an international arms trade treaty. Governments must recognize that arms proliferation is one of the main drivers of human rights abuse and poverty. (Guardian)

Big Business Lobbyists Have Undue Influence on Trade Talks (January 24, 2006)

ActionAid draws attention to the way big companies influence global and regional trade talks. With thousands of lobbyists in Washington and Brussels, companies have made bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations excessively open to corporate interests. As a result, international trade deals often favor corporate interests while falling short on development needs.

Self-Regulation Works: ICC Plans Consolidated Global Marketing Code (January 17, 2006)

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) praises its initiative on a "worldwide code of practice for advertisers" to improve companies' marketing habits. But, previous experiences with voluntary self-regulation show that such initiatives do not positively impact most companies' behavior. Contrary to the ICC claims, governments should promote universal and binding marketing and advertisement regulations.

Overview of Accountability Initiatives (January 2006)

This One World Trust working paper provides information on initiatives promoting accountability of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), transnational corporations (TNCs) and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). In addition to a brief description about accountability within each sector, it provides an extensive database on organizations focusing on accountability.



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