Greenpeace report: ISDS empowers global corporations at the expense of people and planet

January 19, 2018: A new report by Greenpeace, Justice for People and Planet, uses 20 case studies of global corporations to explain how corporate power is being used to violate human rights and environmental rights. The report argues that governments should adopt 10 Principles for Corporate Accountability to curb ‘corporate capture, collusion and impunity’.

The report discusses the negative impacts of trade and investment agreements on people and the planet. Greenpeace notes that there are thousands of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements, bilateral tax treaties and investment treaties that are currently helping to protect foreign investment companies, by granting them extensive property rights and powers under investor state dispute settlement schemes (ISDS).

ISDS gives rights to foreign investors to sue governments in international tribunals if they can argue that a change in domestic law or policy at a national, state or local level will ‘harm’ their investment. Greenpeace adds its voice to warnings by AFTINET and other community groups that this will result in ‘regulatory chill’, where governments avoid taking public policy measures that could put them at risk of a lawsuit (p. 25).

US oil giant Chevron lobbied to have ISDS included in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and EU, to act as a ‘deterrent’ against environmental policy such as gas mining bans. Greenpeace also refers to several cases, exposed by journalist Chris Hamby, where ISDS has been used by corporations and rich individuals to avoid consequences for corporate crime. In one instance, a company in El Salvador used ISDS to avoid criminal conviction for lead contamination from its factory. The report recommends against including ISDS in trade deals.