12 May 2023
Behind much of the food we eat and products we consume are powerful companies who drive massive environmental and human destruction in places like the Amazon and Indonesian rainforests. Palm oil, timber, meat, soy and coffee are all examples of products that find their way to our shopping baskets through sprawling trade arrangements or supply chains.
However, the companies who bring these products to the UK and control and profit from supply chains have no legal liability for activities like land clearance, deforestation or mining. These activities devastate local environments, exacerbate the climate and nature emergency, and destroy the livelihoods of local communities and workers, particularly in the Global South.
We need to rein in the companies behind this devastation.
That’s why Friends of the Earth is campaigning with the Corporate Justice Coalition for a new UK law that’ll hold companies, banks and public bodies to account for any socially and environmentally damaging impacts caused by their activities, and ensure they are held liable when harm occurs.
The Planet over Profit campaign
To do this, over the next two years we’ll be pushing politicians to support the call for a UK Business, Human Rights and the Environment Act. A huge part of how effective this will be hinges on groups being involved. While the Corporate Justice Coalition focuses on MPs when they’re in Westminster, we can make these global issues relevant in our own communities around the country. This will make our call difficult to ignore.
Thankfully we’re not starting from scratch. Recent YouGov polling found 4 in 5 UK people support new laws that would prevent the exploitation of people in supply chains. Even some leading businesses have added their voice to support the call for a new law – 46 of them to date.
We also want to uncover the drivers behind environmental destruction and social injustice around the world. This means telling compelling, human-centred stories about how the products we’re sold in the UK are tied to abuses elsewhere. By doing this we’ll help raise awareness of the issues, which is a good thing in itself but will also add to the pressure we’re putting on MPs.
Watch our Planet over Profit campaign launch training for more information on the campaign. You can also follow the Corporate Justice Coalition Twitter account, our Campaigner's account, or our Campaign Lead's account for up to date news.
Telling a global story in your community: what you can do
Identify and highlight parts of your community where supply chain abuses are visible. Think processing plants, ports, mega-farms or anywhere where a multinational has a presence in your area. In some cases, the same companies and their commodities which are trashing environments in the south, are also causing damage here in the UK, such as soy-dependent intensive livestock production polluting many of our rivers.
Link a local institution to international destruction. If this isn’t easy to identify in your community don’t worry, you can still push MPs by drawing on international stories we’ll share. Use whatever tactics work for you.
Join up with others. You might like to hold an event and invite your MP along, reach out to workers in a local factory, or engage with other communities fighting the harm caused by global commodities. You decide what works best for your area to highlight international justice.
Timeline and support
From March 2023 we’re asking groups around the country to:
- get their MPs to sign our forthcoming pledge to support a new law
- attend debates
- ask questions
- or take other parliamentary actions that force corporate accountability up the agenda
Hopefully this will translate into getting commitments to a new law in election manifestos.
To support you, we’ve created a tactics toolkit to give you ideas for actions and community outreach. We've developed this set of factsheets with detailed information on the key commodities coming into the UK and this briefing is also really useful to help you win over your MP. You can also use our MP template letter to get the conversation going with your decision maker or even win their support straight off.
The Corporate Justice Coalition campaign website is a great resource which, among other things, provides detailed case studies of supply chain abuses articulating how a new law would make a real difference. Our own article on how a new law would clean up the timber supply chains in Sarawak should help too.
We're also available to answer any questions and give advice, including if you need to book some time to discuss specific commodities you're focussing on. Just get in touch through [email protected]
All of our usual support package applies to this campaign, including funding. We’ll keep you updated on campaign developments through our regular monthly group emails. Make sure you use our order form to get leaflets, placards and our MP pledge card sent to you too.
If you're having trouble getting through to your MP you can shift your focus to winning support from local councillors, Metro Mayors or even Lords to help you build pressure. This will be really helpful for the campaign in and of itself but you can also direct their support back to your MP to make them take better notice.
Don't forget you can email our supporters in your area too. Having fellow constituents support your campaign can make your MP take extra notice so get in touch with your regional contact if you'd like to arrange this.
Working with allies
By taking part in this campaign you’ll also be joining a broad, powerful coalition of justice organisations with strong expertise on human rights. Drawing from this will bolster your ability to make persuasive arguments in favour of a new UK Business, Human Rights and the Environment Act.
It's really worth taking a look at the list of coalition partners and mapping out who has a presence in your area for you to reach out to. From April CAFOD have offered to find any of their supporters who are active on the campaign to loop in with our groups. If you let us know of your lobbying plans we can arrange this for you.
Amnesty are also planning on working on corporate justice over the coming years, so although they haven't started engaging their groups just yet it's definitely worth contacting any in your area. They'll likely have a keen interest in the campaign and are free to work with you on it.
Lastly we recommend reaching out to local UNISON branches. They're another coalition partner who have a broad reach and often good access to politicians. Remember to check out our resource page on building local alliances to help you form strong coalitions.
Join the campaign
If you’d like to join the Planet over Profit campaign and help fight for international justice here in the UK, get in touch through [email protected] or let us know by filling out this very quick form.