About CorpEthics

CorpEthics’ History

A Brief History of Markets Campaigns

Corporate campaigns have played a key role in the emergence of the Corporate Social Responsibility movement. They remain one of the most important forces in the evolution of this movement. Campaigns targeting companies like Nestles’ (children’s formula), Nike (sweatshops), Mitsubishi Corporation (rainforests), and The Home Depot Campaign (old growth logging) provided clear evidence that when civil society threatened well-known brands, those companies would respond by changing their practices or the practices of their less well-branded suppliers.

Since those early campaigns, dozens of major U.S. corporations have been the subject of markets campaigns, including:

  • McDonald’s: animal rights
  • Dell, Apple, HP: computer recycling
  • Staples, Victoria Secret, Kimberly Clark: ancient forests
  • Lumber Liquidators, The Home Depot: toxics
  • Google, Facebook, Apple: renewable energy
  • Disney, Gap: apparel sweatshops

A Brief History of CorpEthics

In 2003, Michael Marx, Ph.D. founded CorpEthics (originally named Corporate Ethics International) in response to environmental, health, animal rights and labor non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  At the time, Michael and these NGOs strongly believed that markets campaigns were fast becoming one of the most effective ways to improve corporate environmental and social practices. They also believed that as a community, cross-organizational learning and multi-group coordination for large national and international campaigns were needed.

benny trophy
Benny Award Trophy

In 2003, CorpEthics created the Business Ethics Network (BEN) with the mission of facilitating cross-organization learning. BEN became the “trade organization” for market campaigners. It sponsored an annual conference, the Benny Awards, and created Corporate Campaign U.

In 2004, CorpEthics launched and managed the first cross-issue coordinated campaign focusing on Walmart. We managed the funding for and coordinated the Big Box Collaborative, which ultimately created the brand threat that motivated Walmart’s CEO to  put the company on a more ecologically sustainable path.

In 2007, CorpEthics spawned the Strategic Corporate Initiative. We coordinated a team of top corporate campaign analysts to identify the most strategic ways to bring corporations back under control and in service to the people.

In 2008, CorpEthics became engaged in the North American Tar Sands Campaign. This campaign was already underway with Canadian advocacy groups. CEI helped recruit U.S. and European groups that were already fighting domestic oil battles to join with their Canadian allies. CEI also helped generate support for all the groups in the Tar Sands Campaign. The campaign successfully blocked all major proposed pipelines, most notably when President Obama rejected the proposed Keystone XL pipeline across the U.S.  The controversy from this campaign drew attention to the excessive political power that oil companies in Canada and U.S. exercised over federal, provincial and state governments. Responsible Canadian citizens demanded greater balance between oil industry and environmental values and this may have contributed to  bold climate commitments by newly elected Canadian leaders. The Keystone XL Campaign also helped jump start a more aggressive  climate movement in the U.S. which challenged virtually all new oil production, transport, and refining infrastructure.

In 2015, CorpEthics moved on from the Tar Sands Campaign to spawn and manage the funding for the U.S. Beyond Oil Campaign. Its goal was to block all new proposed oil infrastructure in the U.S. and to protect all federal public lands and waters from oil and gas drilling. That campaign was successful until the election of Donald Trump. So in 2017 the Moving Beyond Oil Campaign shifted its strategic focus from limiting supply to limiting demand for oil. It began funding diverse state coalitions of climate, justice, labor, health and faith advocacy groups in New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Colorado, and California. Their goal is to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles for passenger, freight, and mass transit.  The campaign has already produced exciting results and may become a model for further state and city EV campaigns.

CorpEthics Team

mjmSenior Strategic Adviser, Michael Marx, Ph.D.

Michael received his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he taught communications and organizational behavior courses.  Earlier in his career, he founded Selection Sciences, Inc. a management consulting firm specializing in employee selection and management training and assessment. His clients included Fortune 500 companies like Hewlett-Packard, Memorex, Fireman’s Fund, Transamerica, Pacific Bell, and American Express. Selection Sciences, Inc. also specialized in jury selection, case presentation, and post-verdict analyses in large civil cases.

In the early 1990s, Michael transitioned out of corporate and legal consulting to become an environmental activist. Working for NGOs like Rainforest Action Network ,  ForestEthics (which he co-founded),  CorpEthics (which he founded), and the Sierra Club, he helped lead several international campaigns to improve the environmental and human rights practices of major corporations like Mitsubishi, Home Depot, Staples, PepsiCo and Walmart. Michael also founded the Business Ethics Network which is comprised of U.S. NGOs that engage in corporate campaigns.

Michael advised the International Tar Sands Oil Campaign, which included over 100 groups working in the U.S., Europe and Canada. He now manages the Moving Beyond Oil Fund which supports groups working to protect the Clean Car Standards as well as coalitions of diverse groups in key states working together to accelerate the electrification of transportation.

kenny-brunoStrategic Adviser, Kenny Bruno

Kenny Bruno is a consultant to CorpEthics. He specializes in campaigns to end the era of oil and accelerate alternatives. He has worked for Greenpeace, EarthRights International, Corpwatch, Environmental Heath Fund, Corporate Ethics International, and New Venture Fund. He has served as an Adjunct Professor at NYU, teaching courses on Strategic Campaigning and Advocacy and Linking Human Rights and Environment.

Kenny is the founder of two schools for training indigenous leaders on human rights and environment, one in Ecuador and one in Peru, and the co-author of three books: Greenwash: The Reality Behind Corporate Environmentalism, Earthsummit.biz: The Corporate Takeover of Sustainable Development and Josie and the Fourth Grade Bike Brigade.

CorpEthics Board of Directors

Jeff Wiles is a private investor, and the former owner of ProSchools, a professional adult education certification company. He advises many non-profit organizations on organizational management, financial and fiduciary matters. He is based in Portland, Oregon.

Kirk Hulett is a Senior Partner with Hulett Harper Stewart, a law firm that represents individual and corporate clients in areas of complex business, securities, antitrust, consumer, employment, Indian gaming, and class litigation. He has served as lead attorney on behalf of shareholders on security fraud cases against several of the largest corporations in America. He is based in San Diego, California.

David Welborn is a philanthropist, and sits on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including serving as Chairman of the Board of Nature and Culture International. He sits on the board of Hunter Industries, is the former president of San Diego Coastkeeper and member of the San Diego Foundation Environment Working Group. He is based in San Diego, California.

Contact CorpEthics

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (415) 238 9977  

“CorpEthics, under the leadership of Michael Marx, has established itself as one of the premier, go-to organizations when it comes to designing and coordinating complex environmental campaigns involving a variety of organizations. CorpEthics has been at the center of several of the most seminal environmental campaigns of the last 15 years.” 

~Heidi Binko, Senior Program Officer, Rockefeller Family Fund

“CorpEthics has been instrumental in developing and implementing sophisticated campaigns that contribute to a safer climate.  Michael is particularly skilled and effective at facilitating and coordinating diverse organizations toward a common cause and it has been a pleasure to work with him. ”

~ Anthony Eggert, Program Director, Oil, ClimateWorks

“If you look at some of the most important environmental campaigns in the last 20 years, Michael Marx has been in the middle of the action playing an important strategic, coordination, and fundraising role.”

~Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club