Important decisions affecting people and the environment should be based on the public interest, rather than maximizing corporate profits. The accumulation of powerful corporate self-interests is not the same as the common good. In fact it is usually the opposite.
Corporations need to operate in an environmentally sustainable way. It is in their long term interests to ensure that the environment is healthy. Governments need to enforce stricter legislation and refuse to be swayed by corporate lobbying. Furthermore, corporations need to change from within. Companies operating in foreign countries must prove they are doing so in a responsible way before they are allowed to trade their products in the developed world.
Also, society should apply the “precautionary principle,” which puts the burden of proof on corporations to demonstrate that their practices and products will not harm our health or the environment.
With the financial might of corporations, this is not a difficult task for them. Corporations need to realise the power they have, both for good and bad, and act on that knowledge. They need to fund the research and development of alternative energy sources, to conduct sustainable farming, agricultural and fishing practices, and not take shortcuts in regards to pollution and waste.
Corporate social and environmental responsibility can be regulated and enforced. However, regulations must apply globally, otherwise corporations will evade regulations by relocating their operations to countries with weaker laws. Therefore, multinational corporations should be subject to global enforceable standards which protect people and the environment.
Standards of corporate conduct should be high and independent from corporate influence. Voluntary codes of corporate behaviour are often designed by the corporations to serve public relations purposes or to avoid independent regulation. Developing countries could be compensated, for a limited period to enable them to meet these higher standards without losing their economic competitiveness.
More specifically, corporations need to
We must end financial contributions by corporations to political candidates and parties worldwide. Funding of political parties should be provided through public funds on a fair and equitable basis.
Governments should make both corporate lobbying and corporate funding of political campaigns and parties illegal. Until this occurs, our democratic systems are open to manipulation by the groups with the most money and power, namely the multinational corporations. Policymakers and regulators must be free to protect people and the environment without intimidations from corporate lobbyists. The agenda of business should be business - not politics.
The activities of corporations should be more transparent. Corporations must fully and publicly disclose all lobbying activities around the world, including through trade associations and public relations campaigns. Corporations must respect the independent authority of government departments. It should be illegal for corporations to buy access to local, national or international public officials.
Corporations must respect international institutions, agreements and policies that protect people and the environment. Corporations frequently utilise international trade agreements and institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, for private gain.
We need greater regulation of corporate lobbying. Corporations must reveal on which issues they are lobbying, whom they have lobbied and how much they have spent. At the same time, governments must name those corporate lobbyists from whom they have received information or advice.
Governments could control the influence of corporations in other ways by
A well functioning economy depends on healthy competition. If the number of corporations in a given market is permitted to drop, then competition ceases and a monopoly is created. This has several repercussions, including a reduction in choice for the consumer, an increase of powers in the hands of fewer corporations, excessive influence, possible abuse of power, and undue pressure by large corporations on smaller suppliers in developed and developing countries.
In general, larger companies pay less tax. However, small and medium-sized businesses should have to pay less tax for several reasons. They employ more people, use less energy in transport, and perform an important social role in the community by providing services locally. The revenues raised from taxing larger companies should be used to support small-scale co-operatives and fledgling industries.
Offshore tax havens, trust funds and other loopholes for avoiding tax should be closed. Corporation managers should not be able to set up other companies that deliberately incur losses to offset their profits and which pay their children as if they are employees. Governments should ensure that multimillionaire managers are not able to rort the system with extremely low taxable personal incomes. Corporations and individuals should not be able to avoid their fiscal responsibilities. Countries that operate as tax havens could be compensated, for a limited period, for the revenue they would lose as a result of the abolition of their tax haven status.
Governments should give support to organisations which help corporations to develop policies and practices which are environmentally and socially responsible. These organisations include Business for Social Responsibility, The Centre for Social Markets, The Ecos Corporation and The International Institute for Sustainable Development.
As individuals we can support activist groups which aim to bring a change of thinking in the community about corporations and their impact on the environment and society. These groups include Essential Action, Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy, Reclaim Democracy, Corporate Accountability International, Corporate Europe Observatory, Corporate Watch and The Polaris Institute.
To change the way corporations behave is a massive undertaking which could involve legislative changes, as well as finding new ways to structure western economies. It is highly unlikely that governments will act without pressure from the public, due to the strong the connection between government and business.