Funding for a Change, 1996-7
"To achieve its standard of living,
a tiny country like Britain had to exploit half the globe. How
many globes will India need to exploit to have the same standard
of living ?"
are among the world's biggest economic units. The unwillingness
or inability of national governments to control TNCs in
a period of deregulated global trade and investment does
not bode well for people's health or the environment. TNC
operations routinely expose workers and communities to an
array of health, safety and ecological disasters. For example,
TNC activities generate more than half of the greenhouse
gases emitted by the industrial sectors with the greatest
impact on global warming"
Jed Greer and Karanjit Singh,
Corporate Watch, 1997
"Man is dangerously altering
the Earth's climate"
Bert Bolin, UN Cliimate Convention,
"The world is our village :
if one house catches fire, the roofs over all our heads
are immediately at risk. If any one of us tries to start
rebuilding, their efforts will be purely symbolic. Solidarity
has to be the order of the day; each of us must bear his
own share of responsibility" In a world where global interconnectedness
between peoples, industry, culture and environment is becoming
increasingly hard to ignore, FUNDING FOR A CHANGE takes as its
premise that new relationships, strategies and pressures need
to be forged between business and communities in order to ensure
the best chances of mutual survival. John Gummer (UK Secretary
of State for the Environment) recently defined sustainablility
as “Not cheating on your children.” However, more
and more people are insisting that for true global sustainability,
the “your” must logically be replaced with “our”.
In amongst the complex processes of global trade, social justice,
ecology and Transnational Corporations, is the role and impact
of corporate sponsorship and resultant PR implications for both
giver and recipient.
Jacques Delors, UN Environment
and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992
Funding for a Change was a
national initiative arising from growing concern over the
moral complexity of accepting funding from transnational
corporations (TNCs). This was precipitated by issues arising
from organisations who felt compromised by taking money from
Shell Better Britain Campaign in light of Shell's environmental
and human rights impacts in the Niger Delta, as exemplified
by the Nigerian Government's execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and
nine other Ogoni environmental activists. As state funding
contracts in the future, this issue in general will only
become more urgent. In the mid- 90s, a growing number of
people including some from the corporate sector, were asking
the following questions:
- What responsibilities do community, scientific,
ecological, and arts initiatives in this country have when
they receive funding from TNCs whose business activities
in other parts of the world have considerable, often negative,
social and ecological impact ?
- What can fund recipients do to encourage
TNCs to identify the benefits in developing consistent
ethical procedures towards the environments and communities
where they operate?
- What are the parameters for relationships
between fund recipients and the corporate sector - what
tangible good can arise from dialogue ? What good from
- Where does such sponsorship fit in the
TNCs’ overall strategy? And how does such support
affect the activities of the funded organizations?
- How can potential recipient organisations,
often fighting for their survival, be supported to question
their potential benefactors about the nature of the sponsorship
Funding for a Change created
five discussion fora for sharing experience, insights, and
strategies on the question of ethics and corporate funding.
The gatherings targeted people from:
- corporate sector : strategists, PR, sponsorship,
community relations depts.
- community initiatives and voluntary sector
- arts practitioners - community, venue-based,
individuals, policy makers
- scientists, ecologists and economists
The discussion fora explored case studies and
analysis of TNC funding of community, environmental and arts
initiatives in the UK, particularly looking for examples
of NGO's and groups devising ground-breaking and/or model
The last event was a two-day conference "Pure
Profits : Fair Grounds" , held at the Globe Gallery,
North Shields, England, in November 1998, where 70 people
came together for a series of workshops and presentations,
including provocative and powerful artwork from Shelley Sacks,
Peter Kennard, and James Marriott.
Funding for a Change was devised and co-ordinated by AN Publications,
Artists’ Agency (now Helix Arts), (Newcastle Upon Tyne), PLATFORM
(London), Projects Environment (Manchester), Quaking Houses Environmental
Trust (Co. Durham), with independent researchers in the three fields.
The project was endorsed and supported by Black Environment Network and
the Ethical Consumer Research Association. FFAC thanks Greenpeace Business
Network, LIFT Business Arts Forum, New Economics Foundation, Shell Better
Britain Campaign for advice and input. The 1997/8 events were funded
by the Arts Council of England.
PLATFORM employed an Ethical Finance Officer,
Rosey Hurst, in 1996/7 to help address these issues internally.
As a result of this process, PLATFORM developed its Ethical
Funding Policy and has since offered workshops to support
other organisations who wish to address these questions.
These include Black Environment Network, Magic Me and the
Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers (UK).
Arts Council of England, London Arts
What’s the problem with seeking funds from big business ?
A challenge for the voluntary sector
Background material, written 1996
Transnational Corporations (TNCs) have greater
power today than they have ever had, and recent developments
such as the new G.A.T.T. will only serve to strengthen their
positions. Checks and balances or any kind of accountability
hardly exists: between 1977 and 1992 an organization, the
U.N. Centre on Transnational Corporations, was working on
a Code of Conduct, however, the U.N.C.T.C. ceased to exist
in 1992. There is wide consensus on the vast power and influence
that TNCs now command; sources as politically diverse as
Robert Reich, moderate Labour Secretary in the present U.S.
Administration, and George Monbiot, prime mover in the radical ‘This
Land Is Ours’ campaign agree on this much:
“We are living through a transformation
that will rearrange the politics and economics of the
coming century. There will be no national products or
technologies, no national corporations, no national industries.
There will no longer be national economies, at least
in the way we have come to understand that concept. All
that will remain rooted within national borders are the
people who comprise a nation... Each nation’s primary
political task will be to cope with the centrifugal forces
of the global economy which tear at the ties binding
(Robert Reich:The Work of Nations, 1992)
”The power of TNCs is less visible than
before, which has led some to assume that it is receding. But all that
has happened is that governments, the multilateral banks and institutions,
science and the media are now doing the companies’ dirty work for
them. It is arguable that the single purpose of our government is the
re-shaping of our society to provide better opportunities for its friends
and funders among the big corporations..... Policies such as a minimum
wage, paternity leave, traffic reduction, energy conservation and sensible
eco-labelling, are resisted. Damaging and unpopular policies which happen
to be good for big business are backed to the brink of electoral or economic
colllapse. The government will fight almost to the death to promote road-
building, rail privatization, open cast mining, nuclear re-processing,
the privatization of education and health, genetic engineering, tobacco
advertising and superstore construction, while dismantling the bodies
- such as the pollution inspectorate, the old Nature Conservancy Council
and most recently, the Nutrition Task Force, which threaten its friends.”
(George Monbiot:The Guardian, 8.11.95)
The TNCs are certainly less visible in their operations than they’ve
ever been. More and more energy goes into enabling them to avoid the
media spotlight. Shandwick plc (The 2nd biggest P.R. company in the world)
have recently been appointed by Shell - they will have fulfilled their
brief if they can enable many of Shell’s recent activities to ‘disappear’ from
the newspapers and media. P.R. companies are the new magicians, being
paid millions to make unpleasant truths vanish from the headlines. And
of course the media collude in this process in the fickleness of their
coverage. They are easily persuaded that Nigeria, the Ogoni, Brent Spar,
these were “last year’s stories”.
One of the primary aims of Funding For A Change
will be to shine a light on TNCs’ activities, and more
than simply not allowing isues to ‘disappear’,
it will seek to make the invisible visible, to look at connections
which are often hidden from us.
A traditional left critique of multinationals
was grounded in pure oppositionism. Multinationals were “evil”, ‘they’ had
no sense of social responsibility, ‘they’ should
not be spoken to, dealt with in any way. Such a stance seems
sterile today when, like it or not, vast corporations are
actually taking over many of the state’s functions
(eg. pension provision, health schemes, even prison construction),
when such TNCs contribute billions of pounds to the government
via corporation taxes, when TNCs are replacing state funding
for the arts and sciences at a rapid rate. Fundamental changes
in the way society is structured calls for a vastly more
imaginative response than simply raising two fingers.
Funding For A Change will
challenge traditional notions of ‘them’ and ‘us’ and
recognise that all of us, and especially those of us in receipt
of funding, have a responsibility to look at how we are intimately
linked to the activities of TNCs. Even those organizations
who refuse to be ‘seduced’ by TNC funding are
not clean - their pension schemes are 99% dependent upon
the high returns that the huge pension funds can only achieve
by investment in TNCs engaged in short-termist, high return
activity. Corporation taxes from TNCs pay for the hospitals
we use, the sewers beneath our feet, the transport we travelled
As cultural practitioners we form a link in the chain for TNCs, and,
from their point of view, a very necessary one. One that associates the
Corporation with imaginative and beneficial artistic and community initiatives.
Finally, it is vitally important that connections
are made, and are seen to be made. The present system can
only exist because at all levels, from the individual to
the state, there is no connection between producer and consumer,
or between citizens in different regions or different lands.
- In whole tracts of the Niger Delta a process of land carbonification
has set in down to 3 feet below the earth’s surface;
- In parts of Northumberland rivers and steams run orange,
and it is unsafe for children to even step in them, let alone
drink the water.
In both these cases, the energy industry has
behaved in an entirely short-termist way, sucking the maximum
amount from the earth and caring the minimum amount about
the long-term environmental and human devastation caused.
A graphic example of the lack of social responsibility embodied
by T.N.C. behaviour was given by Robert Reich in the Harvard
Business Review, 1991: “One of the more chilling
threats has come from Charles Harper, head of ConAgra, a
giant food-processing and commodity-trading company, which
is crucial to the economy of Omaha, Nebraska. Harper threatened
to move the company unless the state changed its tax code.
The bonds of loyalty could slip over the weekend, Harper
warned: ‘Some Friday night, we turn out the lights
- click, click, click - back up the trucks, and be gone by
Monday morning.’ "
Funding for a Change will
begin the process of addressing these issues, and will use
the imagination and creativity of inter-disciplinary art
practices to establish forums where these issues can be discussed
in the most innovative way. It will also support the establishment
of research posts which will be published independently,
but also feed into the conference/ event in Autumn ‘97.
Finally, it is envisaged that the dialogues inititated with
TNCs will continue and develop beyond the life of the event
and the research, and will contribute to a radical shift
in the social and environmental practice of the corporations.