Corporate Crimes, The need for an international instrument on corporate accountability and liability

Publication - 27 August, 2002
In this report Greenpeace presents the Bhopal Principles on Corporate Accountability and Liability, a comprehensive set of principles to ensure that human rights, food sovereignty and clean and sustainable development are not threatened by corporate activities.

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Executive summary: Chapter 1 Introduction. At the Johannesburg Earth Summit, Greenpeace is calling upon Governments to endorse the Bhopal Principles on Corporate Responsibility (see Chapter 2). Experience in the post-Rio Decade has shown that the adoption of these ten Principles is urgently needed They form a comprehensive set of measures that would ensure that corporations act in a manner that is consistent with Principles 13 (Liability), 14 (Double Standards), 15 (Precautionary Principle) and 16 (Polluter Pays Principle) of the Rio Declaration. States are ultimately responsible for public welfare, and they must not abdicate this responsibility to the private sector. Unfortunately states are increasingly doing just this, by relying on voluntary agreements, and by failing to develop international instruments to prevent transnational corporations from slipping through holes in the net of national legislation. The few voluntary initiatives with which some corporations are willing to comply, such as the Global Reporting Initiative, the OECD guidelines, and the UN Global Compact, are just not enough.Corporations benefit from a global market for the development of their business but are not held globally accountable. Therefore, current moves to ensure sustainability require an international instrument of corporate responsibility, accountability and liability. Now is the time for an international instrument that ensures rights and duties, reporting, monitoring, and verification of consistent responsible corporate behaviour. Such an instrument should encompass, inter alia, compensation for damages, remediation, right to know, and respect for human and community rights.Corporate accountability is a subject of concern for a wide range of groups campaigning on issues including human rights, environment, development and labour. Corporate crimes committed on all continents across a range of industrial activities in various sectors (e.g. chemicals, forestry, oil, mining, genetic engineering, nuclear, military, fishing, etc.) clearly point towards the need for greater control, monitoring and accountability of corporate activity in a globalised economy.Resistance from governments or industry to an international instrument on corporate accountability would only increase the public's perception of increasing corporate control of governments and create public suspicion regarding the real intentions of any corporate social and environmental programme.

Num. pages: 149