Sébastien Thibault/Global Witness

Holding corporates to account

Complex corporate structures allow businesses to avoid responsibility for destruction of the environment and human rights abuses. We are campaigning for a global legal framework to hold companies and those who finance them to account for their impacts on people and planet.

The worst offenders in terms of destroying the planet and trampling on human rights are usually protected and obscured by labyrinthine corporate structures. There are many layers between the people carrying out the deeds, the people funding them, and the people giving the orders.

Their ill-gotten gains are usually funnelled through offshore tax havens and private banks, making it hard to ‘follow the money’. They behave like modern-day pirates, beyond the reach of law enforcers, floating above local laws and regulations. This must stop. 

We are campaigning for a new international legal framework to serve notice on those ultimately responsible for human rights abuses and stoking the climate crisis. Our goal is for mandatory corporate due diligence and liability to be introduced across all sectors, from Big Oil to fast fashion, including those who provide finance to businesses. This means:

  • Companies must identity, prevent, mitigate and publicly report on human rights, environmental and corruption risks linked to their global operations, subsidiaries or value chains

  • They will have to do it (the mandatory bit) - a big improvement on voluntary approaches that only the more responsible businesses and investors act on

  • There are meaningful sanctions and penalties for companies that fail to address their negative impacts, and a means by which victims of corporate abuse can seek justice and hold companies liable for harm.

The European Union is a first mover in recognising the lack of rules to hold corporates to account. In April 2020, following our sustained campaigning with civil society allies across Europe, the European Commissioner for Justice announced new rules for mandatory corporate due diligence as part of the Commission’s 2021 work plan and Green New Deal. 

This is a game changer: as the world’s largest trading bloc, the European Union has significant political and economic influence. The European Commission’s own study found that EU imports were responsible for over a third of all deforestation linked to crop and livestock products from 1990-2008. More recently, we have shown how EU investors and their subsidiaries have bankrolled oil exploration in Africa’s oldest national park, a mining project in India which sparked violent protests, and land grabs in Asia and Africa. 

We are now working to ensure the commitment turns into legislation that includes financial institutions - and for other parts of the world to follow the European Union’s leadership.

Cosmas from FORCERT in Kimbe, PNG 2016

A watershed moment on corporate accountability?

As the European Parliament begins developing proposals for a new law to hold business to account for its impact on people and planet, we set out how this process came about and what needs to happen now to ensure this really delivers results
Mining (Industrial)

Why the EU needs to act to ensure companies are not harming people and planet

The political momentum is ripe for the EU to introduce mandatory corporate due diligence rules to protect people and the planet
European Parliament - March Plenary Session Is On

European Union (Brussels)

The EU is a major political and economic power. Policies and laws made in Brussels affect the lives of millions of people. Our EU office campaigns to ensure EU institutions implement ambitious policies that work for people and planet.
forest photo flipped


The world’s forests are rapidly disappearing, gutted of timber or cleared for crops. This mass extinction event is making a handful of corrupt individuals and companies very rich.