Sebastien Thibault - Corporate accountability illustration
Sébastien Thibault/Global Witness

Holding corporates to account

Too many of the world’s biggest and most powerful corporations are profiting from practices that are destroying our planet, driving people from their homes and, at times, fuelling violence against environmental defenders standing up against unfettered resource extraction in their communities. 

We know, for instance, that Big Oil has been pumping out misinformation and funding pseudo-scientists and think tanks to skew the science for decades. We know that companies have captured governments around the world through campaign financing and excessive lobbying to water down regulations designed to protect people and planet. And we know that companies are complicit in the killing and silencing of land and environmental defenders.  This must stop. 

We want to turbo-charge this shift by bringing our investigative, campaigning and communications skills to uncover the role corporations and financial institutions are playing in undermining efforts to stop climate breakdown and muddying the waters around protections that could make a real difference.  

What we need are new global standards to stop companies being able to operate in a way that drives environmental and human rights abuses. 

Our goal is for mandatory corporate due diligence and liability to be introduced across all sectors, 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. Rules must cover all industry sectors from companies that put food on our plates to those that extract dirty fossil fuels

- 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 must also be 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 EU Green Deal.
This is a game changer: as the world’s largest trading bloc, the European Union has significant political and economic influence. We have shown how European companies are harming people and planet through their operations. And 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 with our partners around the world to ensure the commitment turns into legislation that includes financial institutions - and for other parts of the world to follow suit.

Preventing corporate corruption through EU legislation

As the European Union moves ahead with plans to create a new law to protect people and the planet from the harmful impacts of business activity globally, it must ensure that this includes strong measures to tackle corruption.
Corruption + due diligence.jpg

European Union

Established in 2017, our Brussels-based European Union office is campaigning to ensure the EU has strong policies and laws to fight climate breakdown, tackle corporate injustice and prevent abuses of people and planet, for a transition to a greener and more just world


Irresponsible businesses including financial institutions are driving the destruction of climate-critical tropical forests, and the communities and biodiversity that rely on them.