As corporations in the United States and around the world continue to reap record profits thanks to enormous tax cuts, widespread tax avoidance schemes, and business-friendly trade and investment policies, an analysis by Global Justice Now (GJN) published Wednesday found that the world’s most profitable companies are raking in revenue “far in excess of most governments,” giving them unprecendented power to influence policy in their favor and skirt accountability.
Measured by 2017 revenue, 69 of the top 100 economic entities in the world are corporations, GJN found in its report, which was released as part of an effort to pressure the U.K. government to advance a binding United Nations treaty that would hold transnational corporations to account for human rights violations.
“When it comes to the top 200 entities, the gap between corporations and governments gets even more pronounced: 157 are corporations,” GJN notes. “Walmart, Apple, and Shell all accrued more wealth than even fairly rich countries like Russia, Belgium, Sweden.”
In a statement accompanying the striking new figures, GJN director Nick Dearden denounced Britain’s Tory government for eagerly assisting this “rise in corporate power—through tax structures, trade deals, and even aid programs that help big business.”
“The vast wealth and power of corporations is at the heart of so many of the world’s problems—like inequality and climate change,” Dearden noted. “The drive for short-term profits today seems to trump basic human rights for millions of people on the planet. Yet there are very few ways that citizens can hold these corporations to account for their behavior. Rather, through trade and investment deals, it is corporations which are able to demand that governments do their bidding.”
Denouncing powerful governments for “routinely” opposing “the call of developing countries to hold corporations to account for their human rights impacts at the U.N.,” Dearden said his group is “joining campaigns from across the world to tell the British government not to block this international demand for justice.”
Despite continued efforts by the international business lobby to squash them, negotiations on the U.N. Binding Treaty on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations began on Monday in The Hague.
“From a coal mine in Bangladesh that threatens to destroy one of the world’s largest mangrove ecosystems to hundreds of people at risk of displacement from a mega-sugar plantation in Sri Lanka, corporations and big business are often implicated in human rights abuses across Asia” and the world, Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific noted in a blog post on Wednesday, describing the U.N. treaty as a potential “game-changer.”
“Companies are able to evade responsibility by operating between different national jurisdictions and taking advantage of corruption in local legal systems, not to mention the fact that many corporations are richer and more powerful than the states that seek to regulate them,” Friends of the Earth concluded. “We must right this wrong.”
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