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.