Brussels, May 11 – Business leaders and European lawmakers meeting today at the ‘World Economic Forum on Europe’ in Brussels are being urged to make companies accountable for the harm they cause people and the environment around the world.
Delegates at the ‘World Economic Forum’ (WEF) meeting are discussing whether and what European rules are needed for business. The European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) and Public Eye  are asking the European Commission for clearer rules to protect citizens and the environment. A petition calling on the EU to hold companies accountable is being launched today at www.rightsforpeople.org 
The global economic crisis has demonstrated the dangers of missing and weak regulation, especially for the activities of transnational corporations. Moreover, European consumers continuously express their desire to buy goods that are produced in ethically acceptable ways.
ECCJ and Public Eye are gathering support from EU citizens for legislation that ensures:
– companies operating in the EU are legally accountable for any harm they cause to people and the environment around the world – companies disclose accurate information about their impacts on people and the environment
– non-EU citizens who suffer due to the operations of European companies have access to justice in Europe.
Paul de Clerck of ECCJ says: “The European Commission claims it supports human rights and sustainable development around the globe but to be credible it must introduce rules to hold companies accountable for the harm they cause beyond Europe’s borders. Commission officials are hearing from business leaders at the World Economic Forum on Europe – they must also listen to the voices of concerned citizens and people whose lives are affected by these companies.”
Oliver Classen of Public Eye on Davos adds: “Human rights violations and environmental abuses are still far too often side effects of business as usual. The WEF offers no solution to this problem. On the contrary, as the mother of all corporate lobbyists it is part of the problem. For the sake of its credibility, the European Union shouldn’t cooperate with this highly questionable institution.”
Particularly in the global south, companies too often behave unacceptably – from employing children to destroying rainforests. In many places around the world where European companies cause harm, the victims do not have any chance to get justice.
French oil company Total, as just one example, operates in Burma in cooperation with the military government. The oil company’s revenues are used by the military to continue the suppression of the Burmese population. Total has not been held accountable for this, despite EU sanctions against Burma.
More cases of corporate misbehaviour will be denounced and illustrated in the campaign ‘Rights for People, Rules for Business’ which starts today and runs until the end of 2010 in at least 13 European countries.
 The European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) is the largest civil society network devoted to corporate accountability in the EU. ECCJ represents more than 250 civil society organisations from all over Europe. www.corporatejustice.org
Public Eye on Davos is the counter event to the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Conferring ‘worst of’ awards to the most irresponsible companies, it demands legally binding rules for transnational corporations. Public Eye is a joint project of Berne Declaration, a development policy organisation, and Greenpeace Switzerland. www.publiceye.ch
 The campaign Rights for People, Rules for Business will collect signatures from EU citizens in support of legislation to make European companies accountable for their negative impacts. Citizens will have the opportunity to read stories about corporate misconduct by visiting an online photo exhibition. In November a speaker tour of witnesses of corporate violations will be organised in five European countries and on November 10, 2010 a European-wide action day on corporate accountability will take place.