Corporate accountability

Corporations have become immensely powerful in recent decades, capturing the state and international bodies, privatising democracy, determining economic and social policy, putting in place a trade and investment agenda that gives them extensive rights and effective impunity for violations of human rights or destruction of the environment. TNI has helped build an international campaign to hold transnational corporations legally accountable and to support frontline communities seeking justice for corporate crimes and for an end to impunity and committed to building collective alternatives.

Goal (2011-2015): Move towards the establishment of a treaty for binding regulations for transnational corporations, end impunity, and secure justice for communities affected by corporate abuses.

Goals Results in 2015 to which TNI contributed
A meaningful consultation process is held to develop a Peoples’ Treaty that will hold corporations accountable
  • TNI held major consultations online and also at the World Social Forum in Tunis, the IGWG in Geneva, at the UN climate summit Paris, with MEPs in Strasbourg, and at various events in Brussels, Manila and Johannesburg attended collectively by more than 2,000 people
A strengthened global campaign to end corporate impunity
  • 15 additional organisations became members of global campaign. 208 organisations and networks worldwide are now members of the Global Campaign
  • Global Campaign members organised 6 successful events in different continents (some of them in the context of  African Mining Indaba, WSF, COP 21, EU-CELAC) building momentum for the campaign
  • TNI has actively engaged parliamentarians in Europe, particularly in the context of the EU-CELAC summit,  strengthening alliances with MEPs. During the  World Social Forum 2015 held in Tunis, the World Parliamentary Forum called on national and regional Parliaments to support the process towards a treaty on binding regulations for TNCs
Global Campaign has a unified and strong voice to input to the Inter-governmental Working Group for a UN binding Treaty.


Project in Numbers

  • State of Power report and infographics visited 4761 times
  • 208 organisations are now members of the Stop Corporate Impunity Campaign
  • 52 media citations
  • 2000 people mobilised and participated directly in 5 major international events co-facilitated by TNI in 2015 (2 in Africa, one in Asia and 2 in Europe).

Proposals for binding regulation of transnational corporations move forward

The Open-Ended Inter-Governmental Working Group (OEIGWG), mandated to establish a binding treaty in 2014, held its first working Session in July in Geneva – thus placing a Treaty on Transnational Corporations firmly on the agenda of the UN.

In advance of the meeting, TNI facilitated an extensive international consultation process which consolidated eight key proposals to submit to the OEIGWG in July 2015, which focused on the nature, the scope, the form and the content of the future legally binding international instrument. These proposals brought together the experience of affected communities and social movements with the analysis of experts drawn the fields of human rights, political economy and international law.

TNI followed up this submission with extensive engagement with the Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Ecuador and Chair of the IGWG, as well as with other Permanent Missions based in Geneva. Prior to the meeting , TNI helped bring together a wide range of social movements and human rights networks to hold formal dialogues with the Brazilian government on the issue, shifting the Brazilian government from a position of abstention at the UNHRC in 2014 to actively supporting the OEIGWG in 2015.

TNI also engaged a growing number of officials from UNCTAD and other international bodies. This included meetings with European parliamentarians – providing high profile for the Treaty process within the European Parliament. Growing support for the Treaty was expressed with a formal resolution adopted at the Global Parliamentary Forum held in Tunis during the World Social Forum in March 2015.

During the OEIGWG meetings in Geneva in July, TNI and partners co-organised a series of events and seminars within the UN, as well as setting up a public space for Peoples’ Mobilisation in front of the UN Buildings – to ensure outreach to the public and to bring outside pressure to the debates on the floor of the UN. 

Inside the UN, TNI and partners made direct interventions and oral statements from the floor and actively dialogued with UN governmental delegates, particularly the nations of Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, China, South Africa, Namibia, Algeria, Morocco, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil. Although the EU states tried to derail the process, the participating 50 states endorsed Ecuador’s proposed programme of work and the first Session of the OEIGWG was successfully concluded. Government members and policy makers within the UNHRC acknowledged the high visibility and constructive contributions of civil society during the process.

The Peoples Treaty and the 8 proposals for IGWG

The legally binding instrument must:

  1.  affirm the obligation of TNCs to respect all human rights
  2.  affirm the obligation of states to protect against human rights violations committed by TNCs and to codify their extra-territorial obligations in this regard
  3. reaffirm the hierarchical superiority of human rights laws over trade and investment treaties and develop specific state obligations in this regard
  4. establish the civil and criminal responsibility of TNCs and their executives, as well as the shared liability of TNCs for the activities of their subsidiaries, suppliers, licensees and subcontractors
  5. include provisions on the obligations of international and regional financial and economic institutions
  6. establish mechanisms at the international level to enforce the treaty and monitor its implementation
  7. protect negotiations from corporate capture

Building an international movement

TNI is actively involved in two major networks addressing corporate accountability: the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity that mobilises a global network of affected communities, movements, networks and organisations and the Treaty Alliance which engages the the newly formed Inter-Governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) at the UNHRC. The Global Campaign is currently made up of 208 organisations and has regional hubs coordinated by TNI partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

As well as coordinating the work of the network through regular meetings and calls, TNI also continually seeks to bring in new members as well as provide capacity-building for movements on the issues. In 2015, TNI held important meetings with movements in Brazil and in South Africa – and carried out training on corporate impunity with Via Campesina members in Mozambique and activists in Spain.

The international movement coalesced in 2015 around five major moments of mobilisation which put the issue of corporate accountability in the spotlight and made it a priority issue for many social movements. The first at the Alternative Mining Indaba in Capetown in February. The second in Tunis during the World Social Forum in March, where around 500 people gathered to learn about the campaign. The third was at the EU-CELAC Summit in June that also included an Impunity Tour to headquarters of corporate lobby organisations. The fourth was during the meetings of  of the UN Human Rights Council OEIGWG in July.

And the final gathering was at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris in December where the corporate campaign forged strong links with climate activists, including support from over 120 representatives of trade unions, womens’ movements and peasant movements. In the run-up to the UN climate talks, TNI also co-published Lobby Planet drawing attention to the responsibility of corporations for the climate crisis.


Cataloguing impunity, privatising democracy and advocating for peoples’ alternatives

TNI President, Susan George, published her 17th book, Shadow Sovereigns, an incisive and accessible introduction to how corporations have seized power and distorted democracy globally. The book drew on years of TNI research and meetings and was praised by MIT intellectual Noam Chomsky for its insights into “the carefully hidden core of global decision-making”.

In January, TNI also launched its fourth edition of the annual flagship State of Power report that dug deep  to analyse the ideological, legal, financial, and sectoral policies that frame corporate power. The report received widespread praise and was one of TNI’s most popular reports of the year, receiving 4761 visits and downloads.

In October, TNI helped unpack how financialisation of the global economy has increased inequality and undermined democracy in a popular primer on ‘Financialisation’ that was viewed more than 3000 times.

TNI  continued to document cases of corporate impunity, collecting – in collaboration with affected communities -, 29 cases of TNC violations of human rights. 15 cases, heard at a Peoples’ Tribunal in 2014, were mapped digitally by the global research project EJOLT (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade – . Eight cases were examined in more detail in a book, Peoples Sovereignty vs Impunity Inc.  produced jointly with the Observatorio de la Deuda en la Globalización in Barcelona.

TNI has also actively supported communities facing impunity, mobilising solidarity and facilitating meetings with experts and politicians. In November, for example, TNI facilitated a meeting of communities affected by Chevron (Ecuador) and Plus Petrol (Peru) with international law experts.


Brid Brennan
Project Coordinator

Diana Aguiar/Monica Vargas
Coordinator of Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples’ Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity

Gonzalo Berrón
Associate Fellow

Sol Trumbo Vila
Project Officer

Susan George
TNI Fellow

David Fig
TNI Fellow


Andrea Tognoni

Jorge San Vicente Feduci

Natsumi Koike (Japan)

Major publications



  • Bi-regional Europe-Latin America and the Caribbean Enlazando Alternativas Network
  • CADTM International
  • FIAN International
  • Friends of the Earth International
  • International Articulation of those Affected by Vale
  • La Via Campesina International
  • The International Office for Human Rights Action on Colombia (OIDHACO)
  • World March of Women
  • World Rainforest Movement


  • Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y el Caribe – ATALC
  • CADTM – AYNA, Americas
  • Focus on the Global South, India/Thailand/Philippines
  • Hemispheric Social Alliance, Americas
  • Jubileo Sur Americas
  • Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD), Americas
  • Social Movements for an Alternative Asia (SMAA)


  • African Women Unite Against Destructive Natural Resource Extraction (WoMin), South Africa
  • Alternative Information Development Center (AIDC), South Africa
  • Bench Marks Foundation, South Africa
  • Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD), Zambia
  • Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
  • Groundwork – Friends of the Earth South Africa
  • La Via Campesina Africa


  • ATTAC Argentina
  • Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA)
  • Brazilian Network for the Integration of the Peoples (REBRIP), Brazil
  • Censat Agua Viva – Amigos de la Tierra Colombia
  • Derechos Humanos sin Fronteras, Perú
  • Educational Assistance (FASE), BrazilFundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (FESPAD), El Salvador
  • Grassroots Global Justice, United States of America
  • Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) – Global Economy Project
  • Instituto Eqüit – Gênero, Economia e Cidadania Global, Brazil
  • Instituto Políticas Alternativas para o Cone Sul (PACS), Brazil
  • Justiça Global, Brazil
  • Mesa Nacional frente a Minería Metálica, El Salvador
  • Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (MAB), Brazil
  • Movimiento Rios Vivos, Colombia
  • Polaris Institute, Canada
  • Red Muqui Sur, Peru
  • Terra de Direitos, Brazil
  • Unión de Afectados y Afectadas por las Operaciones Petroleras de Texaco (UDAPT), Ecuador
  • Vigencia, Brazil

Asia (and Middle East)

  • Alliance of Progressive Labour (APL), Philippines
  • Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Philippines
  • Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall), Palestine
  • EU-Asean Trade network, South-East Asia
  • Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ), Indonesia


  • ATTAC France
  • Centre Europe Tiers Monde (CETIM), Switzerland
  • Col·lectiu de Respostes a les Transnacionals (RETS), Catalunya, Spain
  • Coordination Climat Justice Sociale, Switzerland
  • Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Belgium
  • Ecologistas en Acción-Ekologistak Martxan – Ecologistes en Acció, Spain
  • Enginyeria sense Fronteras, Catalonia
  • France Amérique Latine (FAL), France
  • Hegoa, Instituto de Estudios sobre el Desarrollo y la Cooperación Internacional del País Vasco, Basque Country
  • Milieudefensie – Friends of the Earth, Netherlands
  • Multiwatch, Switzerland
  • Observatório de la Deuda en la Globalización (ODG), Spain
  • Observatorio de Multinacionales en America Latina (OMAL), Spain
  • Red Internacional de Derechos Humanos (RIDH), Switzerland
  • SolidaritéS, Switzerland
  • SOMO – Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, Netherlands
  • War on Want, United Kingdom

See full list on Stop Corporate Impunity website