At the heart of many cases of corporate bad practice and impunity (exemption from punishment) is the stark reality of huge power imbalances between multinational companies and the people they affect. Companies often use their power and influence to deny responsibility, offer tokenistic remedies, or avoid legal accountability. Shifting the power in favour of affected communities is critical when pursuing remedy.
Companies’ use and abuse of their powerful position is a feature of many of their harmful strategies, from refusing to disclose information to avoiding regulations through corporate lobbying. Companies may divert complaints about serious harms to their own company-controlled grievance mechanisms in order to contain criticism rather than solve problems. Some companies may go further by undermining or silencing human rights defenders and communities who seek justice. Companies’ influence on state actors is another major feature of the power imbalance. Many people find their path to justice blocked because of corporate influence over local or national government officials and systems, especially when companies align with suppressive state institutions.
For communities, activists, and organisations facing such challenges, finding ways to shift the balance of power in your favour can help counter harmful corporate strategies. There are a range of actions that can help change the power dynamics. You can put a spotlight on an issue or case by using international complaints mechanisms or by engaging stakeholders with leverage. Community activism can also help empower people in their quest for justice. Deploying legal counter-strategies, including bringing legal action in a company’s home state is another effective way to shift the power balance.