Economic justice and resisting neoliberalism

Find out what Friends of the Earth International and our network are doing to campaign for economic justice and resist neoliberalism.

02 Dec 2022

Bad for people, bad for planet

There’s a growing belief that for many people, our economic system doesn’t work. It’s certainly not hard to entertain this idea from an environmental point of view.

Ecological destruction continues to surge – in step with the profits of the industries driving it – while the reaction of governments worldwide is either drastically lacking or else adding fuel to the fire. Beyond this, it’s harder and harder for people to secure the basics we need to survive like healthy food and warm homes, even in wealthy parts of the world like the UK.

Friends of the Earth International identifies the neoliberal economic system as the cause of these problems. Our economic system prioritises the profits of private industry over a liveable planet and the wellbeing of humanity. That’s an issue. It’s this same issue that's led to Friends of the Earth International’s work on economic justice and resisting neoliberalism.

What's neoliberalism?

For the Friends of the Earth International federation, neoliberalism is understood as "a form of free market fundamentalism […] in which profit and 'efficiency' are the central goals of society". It aims to minimise the activity of the state "while promoting privatisation, deregulation and corporate trade deals". It’s given birth to astounding inequality and fostered the lavish lifestyles of the super wealthy, who exacerbate environmental crises while dealing with none of the impacts.

Neoliberalism has also nurtured a world in which resources and decisions about how they’re used are controlled by a tiny minority.

Of course, there are different ways of defining this economic system. Regardless of how you do, here’s one way Friends of the Earth International pushes back against it.

The federation’s work on economic justice and resisting neoliberalism involves campaigning for a new, internationally binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights.

Large corporations are often implicated in ecological destruction and serious human rights abuse around the world, but rarely pay any penalty. The absence of an international mechanism that holds corporations accountable for abuses in their sprawling supply chains is a major factor in this.

Alongside supporting this work as part of the federation, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland is also calling for a new UK law that'd hold companies, banks and public bodies to account. The proposed Business, Human Rights and Environment Act would ensure that companies are held liable and that communities can seek redress when harm occurs.

Sign our petition and make companies accountable for harm to people and planet.

Where we come in

The UK is home to many of the corporations that thrive on the absence of any oversight in supply chains. That means the reality of the abuses behind the products we buy is often harder for us to see than it is for people in poorer parts of the world, who live with the injustice daily. But it also means that we’re in a unique position to pressure those corporations, highlight their activity and push for robust change at a political level.

Some of our groups are active on this already. Whether campaigning against the expansion of ports or pushing for the closure of the Drax power plant, our groups are highlighting the global effects of neoliberalism in their own communities.

As part of the Friends of the Earth International family, we’re keen to support groups to do more of this. You can get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss how your own group can take action.