2020 Annual Report and a Way Forward in 2021

Not fit for purpose webinar illustration
A live-drawn illustration of the March 30, 2020 webinar discussion, "Business-as-Usual," hosted by MSI Integrity and Harvard Law's International Human Rights Clinic.

2020 was not a good year. It began with the world fearful of another war in the Middle East after the United States assassinated a top Iranian general, and it ended with the COVID-19 global death toll fast approaching two million. Two million. In late January 2021, we surpassed that unthinkable benchmark. We want to offer our thoughts and condolences to those of you who have been affected by this pandemic.

This suffering has underscored the urgency of transforming our global economic, legal, and political systems, which contributed to the cataclysmic harms of this pandemic. Such change will necessitate international and national solidarity. Indeed, among the pain and disruptions of 2020, it was heartening to see many inspiring acts of solidarity, from the formation of robust mutual aid networks around the world, to the months-long protest movement in the United States for racial justice.

This was also a powerful and important year of change for MSI Integrity, which we’ve outlined in our 2020 Annual Report. We released Not Fit-For-Purpose, a landmark report distilling our insights from a decade of exploring and researching the effectiveness of multistakeholder initiatives. The report has led to many significant debates and discussions—from within the chambers of the United States Supreme Court to virtual convenings of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights and among MSIs themselves—with many in the human rights community embracing some of its key messages: there are limits to voluntarism, more innovative regulatory interventions are needed, and we need to change how businesses themselves are governed and owned.

Importantly, we also embarked on a new direction for 2021 onwards challenging and changing the corporate form itself. After years witnessing how corporations behave within MSIs, it became clear to us that if we want a society and economy that value people and the planet, then we first need to change the incentives and decision-making structures of the corporation itself. Until our economic enterprises are governed and owned by workers and communities, we will never meaningfully prevent companies from abusing rights or address the untenable levels of economic inequality that characterize both our globalized and localized economies. There is still much for us to learn. But our initial efforts in steering the corporate accountability and human rights communities towards the work of those who have long been proposing and advocating for such transformations—the labor, racial and climate justice, and wider social movements—has already proved deeply rewarding. Perhaps most exciting is that with our transition in programmatic focus came a staffing transition. We expanded our team to three new people who will begin in 2021 to push forward on our new direction: Perhaps most exciting is that with our transition in programmatic focus came a staffing transition. We expanded our team to three new people who will begin in 2021 to push forward on our new direction: Milap Patel, our new Research Director, Carmen Guan, our Development and Outreach Coordinator, and Noah Klein-Markman, a technical and research consultant. But in 2020 we also said farewell to two excellent staff members: former Research Coordinator, Malene Alleyne (now running her own nonprofit, Freedom Imaginaries), and Research Director, Shauna Curphey (now General Counsel at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers). It would be dishonest of us to foretell a much better 2021, but sincere to expect the fight for economic and social justice to continue on. Our hat is firmly in the ring. Already this year we’ve partnered with a number of organizations, including the Transnational Institute and Corporate Accountability, to co-organize a webinar on the corporate capture of global governance, and we have major new works in the pipeline promoting alternative business structures. Finally, we want to express our gratitude to our friends, family, community, funders, and colleagues, without whose support we could not have gotten through 2020. Please read and share our 2020 Annual Report, and stay tuned for quarterly updates on our progress and activities by signing up for our mailing list.
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