Multinationals have developed a strong capacity to influence public debate and decision-making. This influence shapes the political agenda and defines the final content of the law as well as government decision-making. In turn, this tends to enshrine the interests of private economic actors to the detriment of the general interest. These actors manage to exert their influence in different ways, each of which calls for different responses.
Economics actors can use direct influence techniques, such as lobbying or revolving doors. This influence illustrates the increasingly porous overlap between the political and economic spheres, which can generate conflicts between public and private interests.
The corporate capture also reveals itself through the existence of more diffuse and indirect practices, such as the influencing public opinion through communication in the broad sense, whether with advertising, marketing, or corporate communication.
In the almost total absence of effective tools to regulate and sanction these communication practices, their impact is particularly worrying, notably given the monopolization of the media and the development of targeted online advertising.
Another manifestation of the influence of multinationals lies in the privatisation of the norms of globalisation achieved with the consent of States. Companies tend to create their own rules to regulate the internationalisation of their activities, while keeping State regulation out of the picture.
Investment treaties and arbitration tribunals thus enable companies to manage their international disputes according to the rules they choose. In this context, State law tends to become merely a product in the market of legal services at the disposal of economic interests.
The creation of “soft law”, i.e. non-binding law, is another manifestation of the phenomenon of the privatisation of norms. Soft law allows multinationals to define their responsibilities, either by “adhering” to principles drawn up by States within a multilateral body framework or by producing soft law themselves, either individually (codes of conduct, ethical charters) or within multi-stakeholder bodies, if not totally private. The ineffectiveness of these standards, which today serve corporate communication and public relations functions rather than ensuring victims' access to justice, has been widely denounced.
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Proposal 8 — Regulate the practices of direct influence on public decision making such as lobbying and revolving doors, especially by broadening the definition of certain breaches of integrity
Proposal 9 — Define and provide a legal framework for the commercial and political communication of multinationals, in particular by criminalising image laundering
Proposal 10 — Challenge the self-regulation of multinationals through "soft law" and establish the supremacy of international public order over international economic order, in particular by adopting an international Treaty on Business and Human Rights