California Global Corporate Accountability Project (CAP) (1998 – 2002)


About the Project

The explosion of foreign direct investment by multinational corporations (MNCs) in the 1990s has elevated the overseas social and environmental performance of U.S. corporations to the center of the public spotlight. In many developing countries where U.S. firms manufacture goods, extract resources, or develop land, governments simply lack the regulatory capacity to assure corporate adherence to international standards of performance, leaving corporations without clear management practice guidelines, and in many cases virtual carte blanche to maximize their bottom lines.

As a result, in both home and host countries, MNCs have increasingly become the target of intense scrutiny-and criticism-by community and advocacy groups concerned with a wide array of negative social, economic, and environmental impacts of corporate activity. In response, many MNCs have developed voluntary “codes of conduct” in order to demonstrate their social responsibility to the skeptical public. However, because they are confined to narrow issue sets and lack monitoring, public disclosure, and enforcement mechanisms, these codes have little credibility in the eyes of activists and interested advocacy groups.

The California Global Corporate Accountability Project is working to enhance the international social and environmental performance of U.S. MNCs by moving the debate away from corporate voluntarism and toward innovations in corporate governance, both internally within firms and externally via government regulation.

In order to explore both national/global and local-level tools and regulatory handles, the CAP project focuses on sectors and corporations headquartered or with a high degree of business activity in California. The project has initially focused on the oil and high tech sectors. We have conducted field investigations on the high tech sector in Malaysia, TaiwanThailand, Costa Rica and India. Investigations in the oil sector have been undertaken in Ecuador, the Caspian region, and Nigeria.

In March 2002, the project released ‘Whose Business? A Handbook for Corporate Responsiblity on Human Rights and the Environment’. ‘Whose Business?’ is designed as a guide for educators, students and activists to promote corporate social responsibility and accountability worldwide. The handbook articulates the links between environmental, labor rights and human rights in a context of globalization. It provides also provides resources and contact information on major human rights, labor and environmental groups.

During the Spring of 2002, we will release our draft book-length public policy report that evaluates the benefits and drawbacks of codes of conduct. The report will examine the innovations in governance tools and policies which focus largely on improving the quality and credibility of information through monitoring, disclosure, and verification as well as on defining and enforcing environmental and social performance benchmarks. We will host our second NGO-Industry Policy Dialogue Workshop around the findings of the public policy report. <!–Beginning in the Spring 2001, our Phase II work will include:

1) New Laws on Corporate Governance: No federal or state laws govern the behavior of American corporations overseas or even require companies to report on their environmental and human rights practices. Without independent reports, consumers, investors, policy-makers and advocacy groups must operate in the dark–or rely on company representations. CAP is seeking to build upon its California coalition of advocacy groups to actively promote adoption of new laws that would require disclosure on human rights, environment and labor practices for all companies operating overseas.

2) Investment Screen for Human Rights and Community Environmental Health: Financial markets are a key leverage point to influence corporate practice. Not surprisingly, California is emerging as a center for the ‘ethical investment’ movement. According to Peter Camejo, co-founder of Progressive Asset Management and trustee of the $2.9 billion Contra Costa County employee pension fund, ‘There’s something big happening here in California.’ The newsletter Business Ethics recently observed that the California movement offers ‘a model of how social investing can find impressive new inroads in public finance, ultimately throughout the country.’Increasingly, institutional investors are seeking to meet public and consumer demands to invest in socially responsible corporations. However, few screens exist which examine a company’s environmental performance beyond U.S. borders and virtually no screens are in place to systematically evaluate a company’s performance on human rights, social justice, and community environmental health issues. There is an urgent need to provide a tool for investors to better discriminate among companies’ worldwide operations and performance.To help meet this need, CAP will work with key partners from the human rights, environmental health, and financial communities to catalyze and coordinate an effort to develop a framework for a human rights/community environmental health screen. We will create a Core Group of key players from human rights, environment, labor, business and other groups to collaboratively design the screen. We will work with Bay Area public pension funds and other investor groups to press for a ‘pilot’ implementation.

3) Training Journalists and the Media: The media has provided little coverage on the US corporate role in environmental degradation and human rights violations overseas–such as the killing by Nigerian security forces of environmental activists. Sometimes these incidents make the news. More often they do not. One reason is that journalists expert on civil rights largely do not follow environmental justice issues or international affairs, and those covering environmental affairs know little about human rights norms. They do not have an informed list of sources that can provide critical information at critical times. A strategic effort is needed to both educate and motivate journalists and help them understand how to report on these issues effectively. A CAP seeks to produce a print and electronic Training and Resource Packet, undertake a series of briefings with television and radio producers, and hold a pilot training for national print journalists.–>

Financial support for this project is provided by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the Ford Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.

Papers and information associated with the CGCAP project are below.


Resources Relating to Global Standards

Standards and Guidelines Voluntary Initiatives Social Investment Issues Partnerships Information and Resource Centers   Global Standards and Guidelines Global Reporting Initiative: Organized by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), The Global Reporting Initiative was established in late 1997 with the mission of designing globally applicable guidelines for preparing enterprise-level sustainability reports. In March 1999, […]

Go to the article

National Defense Construction

Structure and Organization of the Armed Forces The armed forces of the PRC are composed of the PLA, both the active and reserve components, the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force and the militia. The CMC of the PRC directs and assumes unified command of the nation’s armed forces. The Ministry of National Defense under the […]

Go to the article


California Global Corporate Accountability Project Case Studies and a New Policy Agenda for Corporate Accountability July 2002 Nautilus Institute is pleased to announce the publication of Beyond Good Deeds, the recently issued report on corporate accountability. The goal of the report is to foster a more robust public debate on legal, political and institutional reforms […]

Go to the article

Commissioned papers on corporate accountability in the high-tech and oil sectors

California Global Corporate Accountability Project Project Reports and Roundtable Proceedings 5/17/02 Dodging Dilemmas? Press Release 5/03/02 Dodging Dilemmas? 3/12/02 Whose Business? A Handbook on Corporate Responsibility for Human Rights and the Environment High Tech Sector Reports 10/18/01 Manufacturing Growth With Social Deficits: Environmental and Labor Issues in the High Tech Sector of Penang, Malaysia 3/23/01 […]

Go to the article

Sustainable and Ethical International Investment Network feature articles

  Sustainable and Ethical International Investment Network feature articles Extracting the Bank from the Extractives by Leif Brottem, May 7, 2002 Leveraging Public Pension Funds: Towards sustainable and responsible corporate governance by Sandy Buffett, March 22, 2002 Financing For Development: Caught Between Polyanna and Cassandra? by Christine Ahn, Sandy Buffett and Lyuba Zarsky, February 4, […]

Go to the article

Dodging Dilemmas Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 17, 2002 For more information contact Lyuba Zarsky 1 510 295 6117 Nautilus Institute Economic benefits of high tech investment in developing countries are compromised by environmental and health costs, concludes new report For a full copy of the report see (Berkeley, Calif.) – Despite voluntary efforts to reduce environmental […]

Go to the article

May 17, 2002 — CAP Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 17, 2002 For more information contact Lyuba Zarsky 1 510 295 6117 Nautilus Institute Economic benefits of high tech investment in developing countries are compromised by environmental and health costs, concludes new report For a full copy of the report see the report. (Berkeley, Calif.) – Despite voluntary efforts to reduce environmental […]

Go to the article


THE PREAMBLE The objectives of the Global Sullivan Principles are to support economic, social and political justice by companies where they do business; to support human rights and to encourage equal opportunity at all levels of employment, including racial and gender diversity on decision making committees and boards; to train and advance disadvantaged workers for […]

Go to the article

BERKELEY, CA, AUGUST 20, 1999 — Corporate Accountability Project CoDirector to Head Amnesty International

BERKELEY, CA, AUGUST 20, 1999 — Julianne Traylor, one of the Principal Investigators in the California Global Corporate Accountability Project, has been named chairwoman of Amnesty International USA. Ms. Traylor is a founder and Project Director of Human Rights Advocates, which, along with the San Francisco-based Natural Heritage Institute, is collaborating with the Nautilus Institute […]

Go to the article

BERKELEY, CA, AUGUST 06, 1999 — Ford and MacArthur Grants for Corporate Accountability Project

BERKELEY, CA, AUGUST 06, 1999 — The Nautilus Institute has received support grants from the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation for its California Global Corporate Accountability Project. The research and advocacy Project examines ways to raise the environmental and social performance of California-based multinationals through innovations in corporate governance based on disclosure, state-level regulation […]

Go to the article