"They’re smart, they’re diligent, they’re nimble. And they are creative – their tactics get them seen. It’s as if Corporate Accountability International remade Sun Tzu’s classic into ‘The Art of Organizing’"
Challenging Corporate Abuse for Over 35 Years
We Launched the First Successful Global Boycott
1977: The Infant Formula Campaign
We started with a bold idea, a sense of urgency and sheer determination.
In the 1970’s, it came to light that babies in Global South countries were getting sick and dying from bottle feeding—a handful of major corporations were aggressively marketing powdered infant formula throughout countries where it simply could not be used safely. Poor mothers couldn’t afford to buy enough of it for their babies—they had no refrigeration, or the fuel and utensils to sterilize bottles, and the water in their communities wasn’t safe enough to use in the formula.
Corporate Accountability International (then the Infant Formula Action Coalition, Infact) was born when four activists joined forces: Leah Margulies, Doug Johnson, Mark Ritchie, and Doug Clement. They agreed preventing more deaths would require a strategic approach that had never been attempted before on a global scale. They tried shareholder resolutions and law suits against U.S. companies, but the changes wouldn’t happen fast enough to save lives. But if the organization successfully targeted the market leader, Nestlé, to stop its dangerous practices, it might just send a ripple effect across the entire industry.
In 1977, the organization set up shop in a tiny basement office at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. A core group of dedicated and savvy activists worked with faith communities and institutions, health professionals and students to mobilize a massive boycott of Nestlé. It became the first successful international boycott of a transnational corporation. And the boycott resulted in the first ever United Nations Code of Marketing, setting standards for the whole industry. More on the Infant Formula Campaign.
We knew it would take an unprecedented organizing effort to turn ordinary people into a movement of consumer activists, but we had to try. Doug Johnson, first executive director of Infact
And We've Never Looked Back
1984: Nuclear Weaponmakers Campaign
After the successful Nestlé boycott, we turned our attention to an industry that was threatening the entire planet: the nuclear weapons industry. We successfully compelled industry leader General Electric to completely move out of the business of producing and promoting nuclear weapons. More on the Nuclear Weaponmakers Campaign.
1993: Campaign to Challenge Big Tobacco
In 1994, CEOs of seven U.S. tobacco corporations stood before Congress and lied to the U.S. public, saying they didn’t know nicotine was addictive. Meanwhile, millions of people were (and still are) dying from tobacco-related diseases. Our bold campaign aimed to change the aggressive marketing practices and reduce the influence of the world’s deadliest industry – a campaign that would lead to passage of the world’s first public health and corporate accountability treaty. More on the Campaign to Challenge Big Tobacco.
2004: Campaign to Challenge Corporate Control of Water
Global water corporations like Nestlé and Suez are intensifying their efforts to put the public’s water in private hands, deepening a world water crisis where one in nine people lack access to enough clean drinking water. Corporate Accountability International started a campaign to ensure a world where no one goes thirsty and where human need is put before corporate greed. More on the Campaign to Challenge Corporate Control of Water.
2009: Campaign to Challenge Corporate Abuse of Our Food
In the first decade of the 21st century, we faced a broken food system that ravages the environment, causes one in seven to go hungry and nearly twice that many to suffer from diet-related diseases. We decided it was time to demand change from the handful of global corporations that have fundamentally reshaped the way we grow, eat and think about our food. More on the Campaign to Challenge Corporate Abuse of Our Food.