Companies seek to silence communities and human rights defenders (HRDs) when their actions affect or risk affecting their business operations and profits.

Undermining critics

By silencing criticism or undermining critics, companies sometimes deny or disregard legitimate concerns and rights claims while continuing their operations without carrying the costs that are necessary to alter their practice or remediate those impacted. Whether through direct violence or indirect tactics to thwart critics, companies can seek to silence communities and human rights defenders in order to continue their business operations, thereby avoiding to address concerns raised by defenders, communities and civil society organisations.

Five ways to undermine defenders and communities

The chosen mechanism for silencing criticism varies depending on the social context and judicial tools available. Strategies against defenders and communities can take the form of physical attacks or threats executed by affiliates of the company for opposing corporate activities. Or the judicial system can be weaponised against human rights defenders through strategic lawsuits, criminalisation, and claims of defamation. Companies can also use community engagement and the promised developmental benefits of their investments to pit community members against those protesting misconduct. And they can obstruct the collective organisation of workers and thereby avoid having to respect other labour rights.