Fighting Corporate Globalization: After Seattle

Tikkun, March/April 2000 | Go to article overview

Fighting Corporate Globalization: After Seattle


Fighting Corporate Globalization: After Seattle

A TIKKUN Roundtable

Peter Bleyer is executive director of the Council of Canadians, a national citizens group based in Ottowa which has mobilized Canadians against destructive aspects of globalization (613-722-4824). John Cavanagh is director of the Institute for Policy Studies and coauthor with Thea Lee and Sarah Anderson of the Field Guide to the Global Economy. Paul Hawken is author of Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism. Randy Hayes is president of the Rainforest Action Network (415-398-4404). Hazel Henderson is a futurist economist, author of Building a Win/Win World and Beyond Globalization. Marjorie Kelly is editor of Business Ethics magazine. David Korten is author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Post-Corporate World. Fran Korten is executive director of the Positive Futures Network and publisher of Yes: A Journal of Positive Futures. Thea Lee is assistant director of public policy for the AFL-CIO. Lori Wallach is director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch and one coordinator of the group that sponsored the Seattle demonstrations.

The world is still reverberating from the wonderful moment in December 1999 when demonstrators in Seattle confronted the World Trade Organization and challenged corporate globalization. Though cheerleaders for globalization, like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, dismissed the demonstrations as misguided, many political leaders have already acknowledged the movement's demands that globalization include environmental protections and workers' and human rights. The growing movement for worldwide ecological and social justice the Seattle demonstrations represented may well signal the defining politics of this new century. So we asked eight of the people whose thinking, organizing, and writing was foundational for what happened in Seattle to think together about strategies for the future.

TIKKUN: What should be the strategic focus for those who wish to challenge the worst aspects of globalization? TIKKUN has been discussing a Social Responsibility Amendment (SRA) to the U.S. Constitution which would require any corporation operating in the United States, whether located here or abroad, to receive a new corporate charter every twenty years. That charter would only be granted if the corporation could prove an acceptable record of social responsibility (to the environment, to its own workers, and to the larger community of people impacted by its products and advertising) as measured by an Ethical Impact Report. The struggle for such an amendment, even if the SRA never passed, would transform public debate and would give support to those inside the corporate world who want a greater level of corporate social responsibility. This is part of our larger strategy to change the bottom line in American society by changing the definition of productivity and efficiency so that it would include maximizing not only material well-being and power, but also the degree to which any institution or social practice encourages people's capacities to be loving, caring, ethically/spiritually/ecologically sensitive and to respond to the universe with awe and wonder.

That is our sense of a strategy. What's yours?

HAZEL HENDERSON: There are five interacting levels for our strategic focus:

1. The global level. We should be promoting global standards, eco-labels, corporate codes of conduct, the global reporting initiative, and an alternative global media. I'm involved in building a global television network called WETV; we are in thirty-one countries now, bartering time from existing stations so as to promote programming that addresses local and global solutions to globalization. We have private investors, and NGOs who promote us get stock options. We need such public/private civic partnerships to build a platform for an alternative media.

2. The national level. Focus on tax-shifting--shifting taxes from payrolls and incomes to pollution and resource depletion. …

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