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.
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 launched and managed the funding for and coordinated the North American Tar Sands Campaign. This campaign successfully land-locked the Canadian tar sands industry by blocking the approval of all major proposed pipelines in Canada and the U.S. The controversy from this campaign contributed to political victories at the provincial and national levels in Canada in 2015 that led to bold climate commitments by Canadian leaders. It also jump started the climate movement in the U.S. with the Keystone XL Campaign.
In 2015, CorpEthics spawned and managed the funding for and coordinated the evolution of the tar sands campaign which has now become The Beyond Oil Campaign. Its goal is to block all new proposed oil infrastructure and to protect all federal public lands and waters from oil and gas drilling.
Senior 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 directed the International Tar Sands Oil Campaign, which included over 100 groups working in the U.S., Europe and Canada. He now directs The Beyond Oil Campaign, which focuses more broadly on slowing the production and transport of oil in North America while accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles.
Strategic Adviser, Kenny Bruno
Kenny Bruno is a Senior Adviser at New Venture Fund, specializing in supporting campaigns to end the era of oil and accelerate alternatives. He has worked for Greenpeace, EarthRights International, Corpwatch, Environmental Heath Fund, and Corporate Ethics International. 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.
“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