When activists, workers, communities, and civil society organisations try to stand up against powerful multinational corporations, inequality before the law is a common experience. Nevertheless, using the law can be an effective way to counter harmful corporate strategies.
Multinational companies frequently use harmful strategies to prevent people obtaining justice through legal means. One of the most common strategies of companies to prevent affected people from having their case heard is to use their complex structures to shield parent companies, enabling them to evade any country’s jurisdiction, or they engage in jurisdiction shopping. Companies also increasingly file abusive Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) in response to civil society advocacy against them.
Even when activists, workers, communities or civil society organisations manage to overcome the formidable obstacles and have their case accepted by a court, companies have a variety of tools at their disposal – as well as far more financial resources – to help them avoid liability. Abusing judicial processes through procedural delays is commonplace and can cause cases to drag on for years.
Countering these corporate strategies is difficult. People harmed by companies rarely have the financial means to take on companies in the courts. However, despite the difficulties, more human rights lawyers, communities, and civil society organisations are initiating legal claims against companies to force corporate change. These claims often involve collaborations between lawyers, civil society groups, human rights defenders, and communities to bring legal action in a home state, use legal action to force information disclosure, counter abusive SLAPPs, and undertake coordinated strategic litigation.