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Case #546

Curbing Corporate Excess


"When people find out that corporations have the rights of citizens but not the obligations, they're outraged," says James Price, Southeast staff director for the Sierra Club. Yet, he says, environmentalists are learning many different ways to challenge corporate power: ?In some cases you can use the courts; in others, it takes direct action. The key is educating the public."

The citizens' action group Alliance for Democracy is calling for an overhaul of state corporation codes to make corporate officers and boards personally liable for their organization's actions. Another approach is to threaten rogue corporations with the revocation of their charters. Another tactic is to issue a seal of good corporate citizenship to corporations who promising to reduce pollution, use recycled products, and communicate their progress through annual self-evaluations. Firms can also be pressured from within through actions like the one brought against Home Depot in May 1999, when activist shareholders demanded a vote on phasing out the sale of old-growth wood products.


Says Ruth Caplan, chair of the Sierra Club?s Corporate Accountability Committee, ?Effective citizens' movement can make a real difference. Even though there is a tremendous amount of corporate power, resistance is growing.? The strategies applied in this case history require working within the mainstream and legal channels. The approach is clearly non violent and can actually, in some cases, be accomplished by a relatively small number of people. However, legal expertise is required. Larger numbers of people are effective when using methods such as company shareholder pressures and boycotts or threatened boycotts. These are also good strategies, especially when combined with those listed above. Because corporate abusive power is or can be worldwide, principles are broadly applicable. However, they would need to be adjusted to reflect local to national laws. Educating the public is an important component of the strategy.
Location: US
Action: Direct
Setting: Developed World
Extent of Action: National
Issues: Corporate/Economic Abuses
Year(s): 2001
Outcome successful for now
Source: Sierra (Magazine), November/December 2001, p.22


Alliance for Democracy, 681 Main St., Waltham, MA 02451; (888) 466-8233; www.afdonline.org or CERES, 11 Arlington St., 6th Floor, Boston, AM 02116; (617) 247-0700; www.ceres.org. For a reading list, see vvww.sierraclub.org/trade/resources
Prepared By: sl 2/02
Rating: 1
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