Global accountability and global consequences

Global accountability and resultant global consequences need to be unavoidable even for corporations attempting to play one country off against another


That natural tendency needs to be counterbalanced. Companies need to be held accountable for their overall impact – for good and for bad. But to be fair to everyone, all companies must be held to account wherever they are. Otherwise, those who act more responsibly risk being uncompetitive (at least in the short-term) in comparison with those who are more selfish – just as when whole countries overfish the oceans.

This is one of the areas in which (in the form of ‘Global Guilds’) multinationals can benefit from helping set up shared mechanisms that play a direct role in even-handedly communicating to themselves, to governments and to the general public the best and the worst of what is happening – immune to lobbying and always guaranteed to be speaking from a fully-global, rather than national or corporate, perspective.

There is another crucial component to global accountability. Just because some corporations are so powerful and so important does not make it legitimate for them effectively to bully the international community by playing one country off against another. Global corporate regulation needs to be coordinated. Global tax regulation needs to be unified. And as a result, global accountability and its associated global consequences need to become unavoidable.

Although it is of course tempting for hugely-powerful multinationals to use their power exclusively to maximize shareholder profit – and therefore in general to lobby against increased regulation – that is an increasingly naive stance to maintain. Big Business has long had a reputation for pushing its weight around. And nobody likes a bully. Those who (fairly or unfairly) feel victimized wait for a chance to get their own back. And when that chance comes – when enough fellow-victims all push back at the same time – bullies get a taste of their own medicine. And, feeding on resentment too long pent up, such a retaliatory backlash can be unduly harsh.