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Amnesty International Campaign Manual


The business community

The role of the business community presents AI with great opportunities and challenges. It is a rapidly developing area of work for AI and for the human rights movement generally. This section looks at:

N    Why the business community is important to AI / 190

N    Why businesses might see human rights as their business / 190

N    Why businesses might not see human rights as their

        business / 191

N    Focusing on business / 192

N    Developing an outreach strategy / 192

N    Understanding business culture / 193

N    Outreach structures / 194

N    Outreach in practice / 195

N    Researching information on businesses / 198

N    Checklist: What you can ask companies to do / 200

During the UN Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the Body Shop supported the campaigning events of the Irish Section: the flagship outlets in Belfast and Dublin, the Republic of Ireland, displayed CD ROM information about AI's work and that of

the Irish NGO, Women's Aid; 14 other branches of the Body Shop decorated their shops with lanterns and AI campaign material. Campaign postcards were suspended from lanterns, shown right.

© ai Why the business community is important to AI

It is a central principle of AI's work that human rights are the responsibility of all and that there is a role for everybody. This applies to corporations and companies as much as to any other sector of society.

International relations in the post-Cold War world have made AI's work with the business community and on company approaches increasingly important. Ideological blocs are increasingly being replaced by economic blocs _ the Americas, Europe, Asia, for example. Trade and business interests are breaking down many of the previous barriers between countries and are increasing contact between societies. International trade, including in services such as education, is growing. Political relations between countries are increasingly shaped by economic interests. In many societies the state is retreating from functions of public life _ from the running of prisons to transport services _ to be replaced by companies and corporations.

Domestically, the business community can influence many aspects of government policy _ including foreign affairs _ that are important to AI's work. For example, sections of the business community may oppose a strong government stand on human rights in relation to a particular country if they believe it damages trade interests, especially where there are calls for imposing human rights conditions on trade. This is a challenge to which AI needs to respond effectively.

Internationally, companies and corporations can influence governments in countries where they have major operations or investments. Competition for inward investment and the need for economic development can make governments particularly sensitive to the concerns of business.

Trade can also be the major form of contact between different societies and provide a valuable conduit for human rights information and dialogue. The human exchange that goes with increased economic interaction can stimulate debate and discussion, and a broader understanding about respective culture, society, values and human rights.

Companies can also, in a number of circumstances, be directly implicated in violating human rights _ either through products they manufacture, or through their operations in particular countries.

Finally, companies and businesses can also be important sources of funds, material support and expertise for AI.

Why businesses might see human rights as their business

The field of business ethics and codes of conduct is developing rapidly. New arguments are likely to emerge as the debates evolve.

The business community is not a single, united entity. Companies have different and sometimes competing interests. Some are concerned about their public image, while others are not. Some have established policies on corporate responsibility to the wider community, while others have not. Individual managers may have wide discretion for policy and practice and be willing to take risks for human rights, while others may not.

Below are some reasons why companies might be interested in AI's concerns.

N    Corporate responsibility and good citizenship. In some countries, a growing number of companies are developing a corporate approach that acknowledges a responsibility not only to owners and employees but to the wider community. They want to be, and be seen to be, good “corporate citizens” pursuing responsible policies. Many reflect this approach by adopting corporate codes of conduct or ethical codes. These may cover issues such as employee rights, the use of forced labour in prisons, child labour, and environmental standards.

N    Image. Some corporations spend millions of dollars each year simply promoting their corporate image through advertising. Donations and support to local community groups may also be seen in the context of a company's image. They may not want to see this investment threatened through association with practices or policies in other countries that could reflect badly on them. N    Consumer concern. In a number of societies “consumer power” is now a factor in the planning and decision-making of some companies. This is probably partly a response to “boycott” campaigns. There is at least anecdotal evidence from the United Kingdom, for example, to suggest that consumers include “moral” factors in making purchasing decisions _ even when there has been no call to boycott.

N    Investor concern. In an increasing number of industrialized societies potential investors can choose investments in companies that conform with certain ethical criteria. These might relate to products (such as excluding companies involved in the tobacco industry), or to practice (such as excluding companies using child labour). In some countries the employee pension funds of major companies and public bodies (for example, New York City, USA) have begun to take ethical issues into account. They can exert considerable influence in some cases to change the policy and practice of companies and to affect investment decisions. Religious organizations may also be substantial investors and have policies in relation to corporate conduct. Shareholder action, where investors have a particular role in raising concerns about company policy and practice, has also become a more common campaigning tactic in some countries.

N    Political risk analysis and a stable investment environment. Large companies require international information not only on markets, but also on long-term political and social trends for their investment decisions. Human rights information can be seen in this context. Many companies making long-term commitments involving significant resources can be wary of societies where power is exercised arbitrarily. There is some recognition that human rights violations are inherently destabilizing. Companies can therefore have an interest in promoting the rule of law, the proper functioning of the judiciary, etc.

N    Personal concern. As with individuals, companies may take decisions based on moral concern and principle. It is clearly easier to do so when these decisions do not conflict with perceived self-interest. Where companies have codes of ethics, committed individuals may be able to use them effectively and creatively to promote human rights.

Why businesses might not see human rights as their business

N    Self-interest. Businesses might be concerned that action on human rights would mean abandoning their political neutrality and constitute interference in the internal affairs of another country. They might also be concerned that it could be against their interest and attract retaliatory action from governments or others.

N    Opposition to AI's aims. Some businesses might not see human rights as part of their core activities or may believe that AI is politically partial. They might also believe that the target government's policies provide an environment for good economic return or are necessary for stability.

N    Commercial interests. Companies may not support action that appears to threaten their commercial interests. However, they may be willing to re-evaluate their long-term interests in the light of human rights information and to look constructively at how they may contribute to AI's objectives.

Focusing on business

Which companies or business institutions does AI approach? A company means “any entrepreneur, corporate body, institution or agency from the business world”. AI can make approaches to any of these. What AI seeks to gain may vary considerably _ from building awareness of AI's goals or obtaining a corporate donation, to obtaining a general statement of support for human rights, AI itself or even action on a specific case.

Approaches to the business community can be once-only and country specific, but ideally they should be part of a longer-term strategy of developing AI's campaigning capacity and influence within the community. The business community in most societies is large and diverse. The parts of it most likely to be of importance to AI's lobbying work and international campaigning are:

N    larger companies, especially those with international investments or trading relationships;

N    the national bodies or associations to which they belong.

Before beginning any individual approach it is best to draw up a long-term strategy that sets out what AI would like to achieve from a program of company approaches. These objectives might include:

N    persuading national business associations to produce a statement in support of human rights/action;

N    persuading national business associations to establish a sub-committee to draw up policy and advise individual member companies on action that can be taken in relation to specific human rights violations;

N    persuading key companies and business people to initiate a dialogue within the business community on the role of the business community in promoting and protecting human rights;

N    persuading individual companies and business people to take official action on AI's concerns.

Being clear about objectives should make it easier to decide who to approach, how to approach them and what to ask for. It can also help determine what organizational structure, if any, you wish to establish to sustain ongoing work.

Developing an outreach strategy

Know who you are dealing with

In order to select appropriate tactics, you need to know the type of company you are dealing with. An inter-Section meeting on company approaches held in February 1996 classified different types of company involvement in human rights concerns as follows:

1. Companies which are human rights advocates.

2. Companies which are inactive on human rights.

3. Companies which are inactive on human rights in the face of serious human rights violations in some of the countries in which they operate.

4. Companies whose products or activities are misused without their knowledge.

5. Companies which knowingly cooperate with those who are committing human rights violations, for instance by supplying equipment used for torture or relying on police units which are known to be likely to commit human rights violations.

6. Companies which are involved in activities which constitute human rights abuses, for example, hiring “death squads” or using forced labour.

Your initial strategy should therefore be to elicit information as to what a company's profile is concerning human rights. Most companies will be in categories 2, 3 and 4 and need to be moved to category 1 if at all possible.


g    Are companies in your society major investors in countries where AI has concerns? What proportion of foreign investment in that country do they represent?

g    Are companies in your society major exporters to countries where AI has concerns? What proportion of imports do they represent in that society?

g    Which companies are major importers of products/raw materials from countries where AI has concerns? What proportion of exports do they represent to that society?

g    Do any multinational companies have their headquarters or regional headquarters in your country?

g    Are there leading business figures who may be sympathetic to AI or willing to make statements on human rights? What is the best way of approaching them?

g    Are there business figures who have influence on government foreign policy?

g    Do companies in your society have subsidiaries, franchises, joint-ventures or manufacturing operations in countries where AI has concerns?

g    Are companies publicly advocating or promoting the importance of trade with particular countries where AI has concerns?

g    Is developing new markets for raw materials or manufactured products in countries where AI has concerns seen as an important element of national policy?

g    Are government departments involved in promoting trade with particular countries _ financially and through training and materials? Are they discussing or raising human rights with the business sector?

g    Is your country seen as a major source of tourism revenue by the countries where AI has concerns?

g    Is the business community organized at a national level in umbrella/national organizations, such as a national business council? Do the organizations take positions on trade or foreign policy?

g    Are there bilateral trade associations bringing together companies trading with a particular country? Which companies belong to them? Do they have a secretariat that could be approached?

g    Are business media seen as influential on business and government policy?

g    Have the business community or media made statements on human rights and trade, or on foreign policy?

Understanding business culture

The business community can be an unfamiliar world to AI, with its own sub-culture and methods of working. It can be useful to seek advice from within the business community when developing a long-term strategy. This advice might help to identify:

N    who the key business leaders and organizations are;

N    what networks exist within the business world;

N    whether there is a lack of awareness of AI and human rights generally that needs to be addressed first;

N    what are likely to be the most persuasive arguments for this audience;

N    what it is reasonable to ask for in the first instance.

Outreach structures

Some AI Sections have established “advisory groups” of business people to provide advice on developing and implementing strategies. Others have established business co-groups to sustain an ongoing strategy. Regular approaches to the senior management of large or strategically important companies or business associations may require the formation of a knowledgeable and committed group of AI members at the Section level who are themselves professional business managers. Such people usually have access to resources for administrative support, but may require internal human rights education and training in AI structures and policies, as well as servicing with regular AI information from Sections' secretariats. Such a group usually depends on a few active members who should be accountable to the Section director/board and have a contact person at the national secretariat.

Some AI business groups have developed a plan of action based upon systematic approaches to the most important companies involved in countries on which AI has major campaigns. They have also sought the public support of leading figures in the business community (for example, by asking them to act as patrons for a fundraising dinner). Such groups also approach business associations, schools and the media to seek support for human rights education and promotion.

Outreach in practice

The following tips are useful to keep in mind when preparing to approach a company:

N    Base approaches on a systematic, well-informed exchange.

N    Aim to establish positive dialogue.

N    The best method for high-level approaches to business is to arrange meetings.

N    Action plans should be based on a two-stage approach _ a letter seeking a meeting, followed by a meeting.

N    At the beginning of all approaches stress that AI is independent of all political parties, ideologies and governments and bases itself strictly on a human rights mandate derived from internationally agreed human rights standards.

N    Delegations approaching companies should inquire about the company's ethical codes/standards, as this might prompt a discussion on human rights.

N    Always try to find out the name of the most relevant business manager _ normally the chief executive and the assistant. Approaches that are not personally addressed are unlikely to be effective.

N    Before making the approach be clear about what you want them to do and the results you expect from their action.

N    Only ask them to do things in which they are likely to be effective.

N    Be aware of AI information about business people who have been victims of human rights violations (check your Section's list of UAs, Action Files and appeal cases).

N    Conduct approaches in a professional manner or not at all.

N    Make sure all contacts are coordinated _ there should be one contact point between AI and the company.

Sections should decide exactly who to approach on the basis of effectiveness and local conditions. Approaches can include writing letters, arranging meetings and attending company shareholder meetings.

N    Writing letters, arranging meetings

If the principal objective is to spread awareness of AI, or of a particular human rights issue, a mass or direct mailing is one option. In an increasing number of countries mailing lists can be rented or bought from “list brokers”. There may already be a list for exactly the audience you wish to address . Lists can also be compiled from association directories. Letters should be personalized as much as possible.

This is unlikely to be an effective approach in establishing long-term dialogue or gaining a high-level meeting.

For more targeted approaches where the intention is to ensure awareness, provoke action or establish a longer relationship, combinations of letter, telephone call and personal meetings are most advisable. Letters seeking a meeting should:

N    not be confrontational, condemnatory or threatening;

N    point out that AI takes no position on embargoes, boycotts and sanctions;

N    use positive statements by other businesses or business leaders on human rights and mention any leading business figures who are willing to be publicly associated with AI _ always stress that there are business groups in AI;

N    stress AI's willingness to hear the point of view of the company _ this provides the rationale for the proposed meeting;

N    conclude positively by saying that you are looking forward to meeting them; when addressed to national business associations, stress the desire to discuss the wider responsibilities of the business sector.

At first you may only be offered a meeting with the public relations manager or someone at a similar level within the company. Do not refuse this meeting. Use it as an opportunity to seek a higher-level meeting. Make clear in your introduction that you hope to meet the chief executive.

Try to keep the meeting as friendly and informative as possible, and distribute relevant samples of external AI material. All meetings should consist of more than one AI representative. Before beginning any meeting, agree on a procedure to record a mutually agreeable minute. Make sure these are agreed in writing afterwards.

Have ready a series of prompts for discussions. You could, for example, ask:

N    What are the views of the company or association?

N    Has the company a code of ethics?

N    Who is responsible for its implementation?

N    How is it implemented _ for example, is it used when training managers?

N    How is it monitored?

N    How are human rights incorporated into the code of ethics?

Link any follow-up to a simple task which both you and the company will do, even if it is only to circulate further relevant information.

When meeting senior company management or national business associations, AI delegations should try to include professional managers who are members of AI and knowledgable about human rights. Their knowledge of the business culture can be very useful. The Dutch Section have a special presentation pack, including a video, to take to such meetings.

Where companies refuse to meet and discuss the issues with AI, or where you wish to illustrate the extent of human rights concerns, there are a number of other options. These are only likely to be worthwhile if AI has major concerns about the company involved.

N    Outreach to other members of the business community

Approach an intermediary, such as a well-known figure from the business community, and ask them to contact the company to request a meeting with AI.

N    Publicity

Copy letters expressing concern at the company's refusal to respond to a human rights issue to:

M    the board of directors;

M    major shareholders;

M    ethical investment trusts and organizations;

M    other non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

N    Involve AI's membership

Ask AI members to telephone or write to companies. Members of local AI groups who are shareholders in the companies concerned can be asked to write as concerned shareholders. AI groups in the areas where companies have their headquarters or operations can also be asked to write, as companies can be sensitive to the views of the local community. It is important that very clear guidance be provided by Section campaign coordinators.

N    Involve the trade union movement

It is possible to involve AI members in trade unions in the work on company approaches. If it would be useful in order to show a “bi-partisan approach”, a trade unionist could be included in any meeting delegation.

Some companies have a commitment to involve or consult their workforce or to be sensitive to the views of their union representatives. A letter from the relevant trade union leadership supporting AI's request for action, or outlining support for building awareness of human rights issues, may therefore be effective.

However, care should be taken to ensure that AI retains an independent profile and it may be more effective in first contacts not to involve trade unions.

N    Shareholder meetings

The annual general meetings (AGMs) of publicly listed companies present an opportunity for shareholders to put questions of the chief executives or directors on company policy and practice.

Meetings are frequently covered by the specialist media. By providing advance notice to the media, you may attract other journalists _ particularly if there are photo-friendly public or symbolic actions taking place.

Investor groupings

Religious organizations, employee pension funds and public bodies may have policies on investment and have sufficient levels of investment in companies to be influential. Approach them to discuss what role they might play.

N    Publicity

Where there is strong evidence that a company is directly implicated in human rights violations, AI can use demonstrations, symbolic actions and media briefings to draw attention to the company and act to spur change in company policy. Care should be taken in any publicity not to imply responsibility for human rights violations for which we have no evidence.

Researching information on businesses

Research sources will vary enormously from country to country. Advice is likely to be available from other NGOs, sympathetic officials in government departments of trade, journalists, academics or students specializing in business and finance. Below are a few possible sources:

N    Public or university libraries

    M    Business directories

    M    Who's Who/Who's Who in Business and Finance (these are now available on line on DIALOG, the Knowledge Index, and CompuServe)

    M    Registers of corporations, directors and executives

    M    Specialist business press

    M    World Guides and encyclopaedias

N    Government sources

    M    Trade/Industry ministries often keep relevant statistics on patterns of trade and companies involved

    M    Journals of ministries of foreign affairs and trade often provide news on trade promotions, the winning of major trade contracts, etc.

    M    Publicly elected officials may be able to ask questions on more specific issues on AI's behalf

    M    Government statistics bureau

N    Other     M    National business associations and chambers of commerce may produce reports with relevant information

    M    Bilateral business/industry associations (these are sometimes listed in the phone book, and the association is normally happy to provide a list of members)

    M    Trade unions and labour-funded research bodies

    M    Religious groups, charitable foundations, ethical investment organizations and pension funds

    M    Business ethics centres and publications (see Appendix 3)


What you can ask companies

to do

j    Accept AI information on countries.

j    Distribute information internally.

j    Make a general statement in support of human rights or AI's work that AI can use publicly.

j    Run human rights briefings before executives take up appointments abroad.

j    Raise concerns on individual cases.

j    Make official representations to government officials on AI's concerns.

j    Include human rights components in ethical/corporate codes. (AI is currently finalizing a checklist on human rights principles for inclusion in company codes of ethics.)

j    Allocate staff resources to developing human rights policies in consultation with NGOs domestically and in countries where the company has operations.

j    Encourage national business associations to actively explore development of policy in the area of human rights.

j    Treat all employees in accordance with international human rights standards.

j    Make a commitment that the company will not be complicit in human rights violations and will instruct its employees not to be silent witnesses to human rights violations.

j    Promote knowledge and understanding of human rights within the company domestically and internationally.


Levi-Strauss (US-based jeans manufacturer) has established guidelines for whether or not it will do business in particular countries.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls upon “every individual and every organ of society” to “strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance...”

“There is no need for timidity in discussing what society should demand from those in commercial life. It is part of a civilized society that people inside and outside business act morally. No more, and no less.”

Financial Times, London, 6 September 1995


In all company approaches, it must be made clear in writing that AI takes no stand on whether economic relations should be maintained with countries where human rights are violated.

During AI's campaign on Indonesia in 1993 and 1994, Club Med, the France-based international holiday company, approached AI to ask for information about local human rights activists who might be in a position to speak at one of its resorts in Indonesia.


Avoid 'off the record' exchanges. Approaches to companies should be frank and open rather than secretive or confidential so that discussions can be reported to the AI movement if necessary. Keep the option of making such discussions public at a later stage if judged appropriate. This does not mean that meetings have to be public, but only that a mutually agreed record must be kept of each meeting. (See Guidelines on Company Approaches in AI's policy manual.)

“It is important that approaches to business be appropriate to this particular audience. The characteristics we have to deal with in the relevant companies are professionalism, lack of time for discursive documents, ignorance/suspicion of AI”.

Sir Geoffrey Chandler, AIUK and former senior company executive

Human Rights Council of Australia

The Human Rights Council of Australia campaigns for the government to encourage business to engage actively in discussion and action on the relationship between business and human rights. In February 1996 it set out 12 recommendations. These included providing businesses with up-to-date human rights information, encouraging discussion with businesses on the relationship between Australian corporate operations abroad and government human rights policies, and exploring regulatory measures where self-regulation fails.

Going Dutch

The Dutch Section began approaching companies about human rights in 1980. They established a business group at Section level. In 1995 the group had about 12 members and was involved in both advising the Section on strategy and conducting outreach work.

The approach of the Dutch Section has always been an “approach of dialogue”: creating human rights awareness and trying to educate and involve companies in AI's work. A second goal has been to try to influence the Dutch Government and other parts of Dutch society by creating good relationships with the business community. Operating in a small society with tight interrelationships between sectors of society makes this a worthwhile goal, although it is difficult to evaluate its success.

Over the years there have been meetings with around 20 companies, most of them multinationals. In one or two cases, long-term relationships have been established. The Section also has an educational program in business schools and university business courses. (The material used is available from the Dutch Section.) Successes include the following:

N    one or two companies have taken steps to secure the release of prisoners of conscience;

N    occasionally managers of companies have asked for country-specific human rights information;

N    AI members have been invited to deliver human rights education during in-company training of expatriates and managers;

N    AI members have been invited to discuss implementation of human rights in businesses' “codes of conduct”;

N    in at least one case AI's approach apparently succeeded in persuading a company to seriously consider the need for a human rights policy.

The Dutch Section believes it is important to realise:

N    how time-consuming this kind of work is if you wish to get results: it needs long-term commitment;

N    that the Section must be willing to have a dialogue with the company: to approach the company as a possible ally and not as an adversary;

N    that a long-term strategy must be worked out for each company, taking care to be consistent in what you are saying and what you are asking for;

N    that care must be taken to ensure that a company will not use a good relationship with AI only for their own public relations.

The South Korean Section secured the support of a major department store chain, which provided space for an AI photo-exhibition used to promote AI and recruit members.

AI members include business people, workers, investors and consumers. AI reflects a wide range of community opinion in many societies _ one reason why companies should listen to AI.

What's the beef?

A local group of AIUSA working on behalf of an Argentine prisoner persuaded a local supermarket to allow an exhibition on the prisoner and human rights in Argentina to be staged next to the shelving carrying Argentine corned beef. The group took a picture of the display and included it with a letter to the Argentine Embassy in Washington.


The US-based sports shoe manufacturer Reebok has committed itself to human rights in its manifesto. In 1986 it sponsored a worldwide rock music tour on behalf of AI. In 1988 it established the Reebok Human Rights Award for human rights activists. It does not, however, systematically focus on countries' overall human rights record when deciding where it conducts business.

The French experience

The French Section has a commission for company approaches. It has secured a number of positive statements affirming human rights work from leading French companies _ quotes that it can use in campaigning. The Section has also produced a handbook on company approaches and a training program for French AI groups.They see that they have four functions:

N    advising the Section on priorities in this area of work; N    acting as a central information resource _ collecting information from the business media and summarizing meetings with businesses;

N    organizing national level approaches to businesses and the business media;

N    helping and providing advice to local AI groups in this area of work.

They first approach the company through a personal letter to the manager seeking an appointment. They do not mix fundraising and campaigning requests and they provide details of what they would like the company to do. The initial letters to companies are kept short and contain the following:

N    the name, position and company of the addressee;

N    a short introduction to AI;

N    a summary of AI's concerns and its public recommendations;

N    a paragraph to show AI's knowledge of the company and why AI is approaching the company;

N    a conclusion comprising a polite and formal identification of the sender.

They believe it is important that the person signing the letter is a member of the delegation meeting the company. They try and make sure the meeting is in the following format:

N    introduce AI and its reasons for seeking the meeting in general terms;

N    detail AI's concerns in the country and how AI believes these are relevant to the company, illustrating knowledge of the company;

N    discuss the possibilities for action by the company;

N    listen carefully and politely to the company's viewpoint;

N    provide examples of what has been done elsewhere by others;

N    agree follow-up and confirm by letter.

Multinational/transnationalcompanies or corporations

For such corporations, AI may use multilateral approaches by different Sections. This should always be based upon an approach by the AI Section in the country where the corporation's headquarters are based. Many companies are interested in receiving regular AI information on the countries where they operate, even if they do not always want to be seen to have a close relationship to human rights organizations such as AI. This information can be sent by country co-groups or the Section's secretariat, but may also be available on the “AI Doc” computer system (consult the IS for details).

Be realistic about what companies will do

Business people are usually more willing to commit themselves to taking concrete steps within their own sphere of responsibility _ for instance in policies which affect their employees in the areas of discrimination and affirmative action, health and safety, and adherence to international labour standards _ than they are in using their "good offices" to try to affect the broader human rights situation.

    The general rule should therefore be to begin with modest and reasonable requests, such as “accept our documents”, “agree to meet us”, etc. The next step should be to request that they take steps within their sphere of responsibility which affect positively the human rights of their employees and suppliers, or to ask them to talk about human rights with other company officials or trade organizations in their own countries. Only lastly should you attempt to enlist them as allies in pressing governments to end the human rights violations which occur in foreign countries where they have business interests.


Remember: make it easy. If companies indicate a willingness to distribute material internally, offer to provide them with a draft article.

Action on forced labour

An approach by AIUSA members to a chemical company with subsidiaries in China elicited the following memo to all those employed by the subsidiaries:

“The [company] is fully supportive of human rights and sensitive to the current ethical issues involving doing business with enterprises which use forced labour.

“The [company] will not do business with enterprises using forced labour, including enterprises which source their labour from prisons.

“In implementing this policy, we need to know our customers and suppliers in order to determine if they are buying or selling to any forced labour enterprises. We will avoid even meeting with or corresponding with enterprises which front for prison labour forces.

“We encourage your sharing information among our offices and staff as an aid to implementing this policy.”

Any allegations of company complicity in human rights violations should be sent to the IS for checking before any action is taken. AI can rarely prove a company's complicity in torture, political imprisonment and the death penalty (except where companies have supplied military, security and police (MSP) transfers which contribute to such violations). Many companies employ their own security force and the conduct of such forces should be closely scrutinized. However, Sections should not make any allegations without these being agreed by the IS. In general, extra care should be taken over publicity which could even imply a company's complicity _ not least because companies and their managers may use libel laws against those who damage their commercial reputation.

Principles of pressure

The Sullivan Principles

The Sullivan Principles in the USA were an attempt to provide an alternative option to disinvestment for US corporations operating in apartheid South Africa. They committed firms with operations in South Africa to pay employees a minimum wage, to use racially non-discriminatory employment practices, and to use their corporate influence to end apartheid. By 1986 over 260 US corporations had signed up to the principles.

The MacBride Principles

The MacBride Principles (named after Sean MacBride, one of AI's first members) is a US-based campaign to ensure that companies operating in Northern Ireland do not discriminate or contribute to discrimination on the grounds of religion. Firms applying the principles also make reasonable efforts to protect the safety of their Roman Catholic workers _ at the workplace and while travelling to and from work. By February 1995, 16 US states and more than 40 city bodies in the US had passed MacBride legislation.

AI's Secretary General, Pierre Sané, with Anita Roddick, the founder of the

UK-based Body Shop


By 1996 some 800 businesses, including major firms such as AT&T, Coopers and Lybrand, and Honeywell had joined a consultancy and clearing house “Business for Social Responsibility”, which includes a program on human rights and business.

During a campaign in the 1980s the Australian Section persuaded the ANZ bank, which had investments in Chile, to allow local AI groups to mount exhibitions on human rights violations in Chile in the bank's foyer.

AI can approach companies with requests for funds and/or sponsorship within the terms of the fundraising guidelines. However, approaches to companies on human rights questions should never be combined with a request for funds. (Guidelines for Approaching Companies in AI's policy manual.)

Amnesty International Campaign Manual