Who's in the Lobby?
This issue [EC69] Ethical Consumer magazine investigates the shady world of the Corporate Lobby Group. Focussing on four of the biggest, it exposes the worrying degree of influence wielded by these gentlemen’s clubs which are set up to marry big business with national and global policy makers, despite the fact that corporations have no basic right to influence politics or policy.
Both the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TBD) and the World Economic Forum (WEC) were established to try ensure greater economic liberalisation and deregulation. They boast of their success in encouraging trade relations with the oppressive Chinese government, and breaking through ‘trade obstacles’ such as popular opposition to genetically modified food. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is considered one of the main forces behind the collapse of the climate change talks in the Hague in November 2000. It had been advising on the development of carbon emissions trading, which allows countries and corporations to avoid cutting their greenhouse gas production by buying the emissions quota of other nations or businesses.
A member of the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERTI) described this lobby
group's agenda as ‘reducing the power of the state and of the public sector in general through privatisation and deregulation.’
The almost exclusively rich, white and male members of industry lobby groups are rarely enthusiastic about ethical constraints such as legislation addressing environmental or workers’ rights issues. The fact that campaign groups who oppose the activities of Multinational Corporations have nothing like their levels of funding, has serious implications for a sustainable future.
Ethical Consumer demands that, at the very least, corporate lobby groups be obliged to publish their membership lists and corporations to declare membership of any lobby organisations in their annual reports. Consumers and investors opposed to their activities can then avoid the products of member companies or contact them for dialogue. It also suggests an end to the system of tax exemptions for corporate expenditure on lobby group activities.
On a positive note, Ethical Consumer cites evidence that, despite the power of global business and the relative financial weakness of the campaign sector, corporate lobby groups are not invincible. For example, public opposition and the targetting of member companies has humbled the Global Climate Coalition, a once-powerful group of oil and other companies which tried to deny the existence of global warming. In 2000, EuropaBio, the lobby group of the European biotechnology industry, cancelled its annual conference for fear of protests like those at the WTO and IMF/World Bank summits.
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