Our work is motivated by the express need to transform the EU, home to a large number of multinational enterprises, into a global leader in assuring high standards for corporate accountability, both at home and abroad. Although the majority of our activities take place within EU borders, their ultimate beneficiaries are communities and workers affected by corporate abuse outside the EU.
While some corporations voluntarily integrate human rights and environmental protection into their business strategy, compelling evidence proves that other unscrupulous companies are responsible for severe social and environmental harms.
For example, research commissioned by ECCJ in 2014 showed that more than half of companies listed on the FTSE100 (UK), CAC40 (France) and DAX30 (Germany) indexes have been linked to human rights abuses.
Academics, legal experts and international organisations have long highlighted significant gaps in the current legal framework, which contribute to corporations being able to act with impunity.
Companies’ ability to evade responsibility is greater in developing countries where the legal system is frail or corrupt, and victims have little chance to demand justice.
The business-driven, voluntary answer to corporate responsibility that dominates in the political outlook has proven to be ineffective as a deterrent and a remedy mechanism for unethical corporate behaviour.
The EU-sponsored IMPACT research project (2013) concluded that: “the aggregate CSR activities of European companies have not made a measurable positive contribution to achieving the economic, social and environmental goals of the EU”.
To address these issues, ECCJ had adopted a unique approach, pursuing a two-pronged strategy:
- Working with decision-makers in developing and proposing robust European and national policies to make business accountable for its human rights and environmental impacts;
- Building a strong corporate accountability movement by acting as an aggregator for European civil society organisations.
Six principles for Corporate Justice:
1. Corporate Justice should be based on internationally agreed standards and principles in the areas of human rights and social, labour, environmental and economic standards for corporate behaviour.
2. Although voluntary initiatives can be successful in some cases, regulatory measures are necessary to ensure all corporations abide by national and internationally agreed standards, whichever provides the highest level of accountability.
3. Stakeholders’ rights are fundamental to Corporate Justice. They are required for stakeholders to hold companies to account for their impacts and for the duties of companies and their directors. A basic prerequisite is the existence of systematic internal and external dialogue processes. Stakeholders should be involved from the early stages of strategy and policy development.
4. Corporate Accountability initiatives can only be effective and credible if they include mechanisms for independent monitoring and verification of their claims, and mechanisms of redress for those affected by corporate activities.
5. Corporate Justice requires high and consistent levels of transparency of business activities and products. This implies mandatory social and environmental reporting, disclosure of payments, subsidies and lobbying vis-à-vis public authorities, and the consumers’ and other stakeholders’ right to information about production processes, products and services.
6. Improving corporate social and environmental impacts requires changes in a company’s core business activities, throughout the supply chain. It also requires responsible behaviour to be internalised throughout a company’s governance framework, strategy, purchasing policies and business models in order to meet the standards set in existing international agreements.