A critical actor within the corporate accountability movement are the philanthropic donors that provide grants, seed capital, and other forms of financing for civil society grantees, partners, and ecosystem members. Without their support, there simply would not be as much reason for optimism that, as a movement, we can achieve our goals.

Among the top-level, non-programmatic observations regarding philanthropy in general, a fewdynamics are noteworthy:

  • Philanthropic capture / Capture of philanthropy:Any organization, such as a non-governmental organization, trade union, or university, for example, can be captured by corporate or other private interests. In turn, such organizations can contribute to capturing others. Philanthropy is no exception. When scanning for anti-corporate capture strategies and innovations, we would be wise to consider whether this dynamic is already at play insofar as funding for specific programming but also at the geographic and sectoral levels.

  • Decentralize funding:At first glance, there is a notable lack of organizations in the Global South with explicit anti-capture programs or even mentions thereof. We can identify some factors that inhibit organizations from overtly doing more on capture, including:
    • Self-censorship:Almost every organization recognizes capture — whether corporate, political, or State — as a problem. However, some organizations express concern that mentioning or alluding too closely to capture could endanger their standing with the governments of the countries where they are based or with other funders.
    • Different framing:The majority of organizations analyze, discuss, and ultimately frame capture differently than, say, a standard “corporate capture of the State” definition. Therefore, different conceptualizations of the phenomenon can lead to the exclusion of some organizations conducting adjacent but not exact programming in this regard.
    • Inertia vis-a-vis anchor organizations:The logic of funding anchor organizations to concentrate, lead, and even occasionally re-grant funding to other organizations may centralize programming — likely unintentionally — in such a way that other, often newer, or smaller organizations, social movements, and community-based groups might be excluded from receiving funding to conduct programming on capture.

  • Anti-corporate capture funding beyond region or climate:Some funders have consolidated their offices and funding streams away from countries such as Mexico and South Africa so as to focus on North America and Africa as regions, for example. In other instances, climate-specific funding has incentivized some organizations to create programming in this area to ensure continued funding, or has excluded others whose work does not include climate or the energy transition. Regarding corporate capture, it would be wise to consider the breadth and depth of opportunities, strategies, and innovations available, many of which may not fit neatly into regional or thematic baskets.

Conectas,a corporate accountability organization based in Brazil, offers the following viewpoint:

“Philanthropy can have a greater impact by encouraging the exchange of learning between [CSOs] since it must be aware of similar or complementary activities that its grantees carry out, not least to avoid duplication of effort and work. So, perhaps an earlier step is: philanthropy can put direct resources, deliverables, or products towards building knowledge and consolidating the lessons learned from its projects. For example, there could be support for creating or improving tools to systematize learning, creating a collective and institutional memory of lessons learned and challenges overcome, which could be shared. The exchange of learning, knowledge, and expertise on the reactions to corporate violations — especially at a macro level — which will allow for better mapping of who to turn to in specific situations is also necessary, especially for organizations in the Global South which, in addition to unstable political scenarios, have to deal with a shortage of resources and personnel to individually handle all the demands that arrive.
It is also of the utmost importance to support mechanisms or structures that allow civil society to anticipate the start of corporate capture so that it can carry out prior and simultaneous work at a local level — with communities, alerting them to corporate strategies and mechanisms for resistance and denunciation — and at a macro level, preparing advocacy work of proposition or opposition, and structuring legal strategy that can confront the harmfulness of corporate activity. To this end, support for appropriating technological mechanisms and knowledge that is still very much restricted to the corporate world — such as artificial intelligence or understanding the logic of financialisation — is necessary. It could also be of great importance for philanthropy to help [CSOs] to build an infrastructure of capacities and connections to go deeper in corporate litigation so that organizations can consider more and more this strategy by mitigating the risk inherent in it.”

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