International Chamber of Commerce

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The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) describes itself as 'the voice of world business'[1] They describe that as national economies are now so closely interwoven, government decisions have far stronger international repercussions than they have in the past. The ICC states that they respond to this by 'being more assertive in expressing business views'. They advertise how they have direct access to national governments all over the world and that they feed business views into intergovernmental organizations on issues that directly affect business operations.

The ICC plays an active role in forging internationally agreed rules and standards and act as advocates on behalf of business 'whenever governments make decisions that crucially affect corporate strategies and the bottom line'. They influence the United Nations, the World Trade Organization 'and many other intergovernmental bodies, both international and regional'[2].

The ICC advertise that they have thousands of member companies and associations in around 130 countries. Members of the ICC 'include many of the world's most influential companies and represent every major industrial and service sector'[3].

Biographical Information


The ICC was founded in 1919 with the aim of serving world business by promoting trade and investment, open markets for goods and services, and the free flow of capital. Its establishment was heavily influence by its first president Etienne Clémentel who was a former French minister of commerce. He set up the organization's international secretariat in Paris and facilitated the creation of the ICC International Court of Arbitration in 1923[4].

In 1924 ICC members were to be found influencing the Dawes Commission which established the international treaty on war reparations. They have also been a strong influence on the United Nations. As far back as 1945, only a year after the UN was established, the ICC gained the 'highest level consultative status' with the UN and its specialized agencies. Since this time, they have worked to ensure that the business agenda has been a strong influence in the UN, as well as through taking part and pushing their agenda with intergovernmental bodies and at other meetings such as those of the G8.

Current activities

As we reach in to the 21st Century, the ICC are reporting that they are working to build a stronger presence in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and the emerging economies of eastern and central Europe[5].


The ICC are advocates and champions of the self-regulation model of business. They advocate that business operates most effectively with a minimum of government intervention and that codes of conduct and the likes should be purely voluntary agreements[6].


  • International Court of Arbitration - The ICC International Court of Arbitration is the longest established institution of the ICC network. It was formed in 1923 and is described as 'the world's leading body for resolving international commercial disputes by arbitration'. It is reported that in 2004, 561 Requests for Arbitration were filed with the ICC Court concerning 1,682 parties from 116 different countries and independent territories[8].
  • Institute of World Business Law - this ICC institution acts as a think-tank which works closely with the ICC policy commissions and the ICC's International Court of Arbitration. This institute holds an Annual Meeting which brings together 'some of the world's leading legal experts' to network on a chosen topical issue with the aim of establishing a 'doctrine'. The Chairman of this institute is Serge Lazareff[10].
U.S. Chamber of Commerce | The American Petroleum Institute | Biotechnology Industry Organization | DLA Piper | Coca-Cola | Dow Chemical Company | DuPont | Eli Lilly and Company | Exxon Mobil | Ford Motor Company | General Electric | Goldman Sachs | Goldman Sachs Group | Lockheed Martin | Merck | McDonald's | Monsanto | National Petrochemical & Refiners Association | News Corporation | Nuclear Energy Institute | Procter & Gamble | Pfizer | Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) | PricewaterhouseCoopers | Raytheon | Rio Tinto | Schering-Plough | Shell | Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association | Unilever United States, Inc. | Wyeth


UN Global Compact and the 'creeping corporate takeover of the UN'

The UN Global Compact was established in 2000 with the stated aims of encouraging companies to sign up to agreements of principles relating to human rights, labour standards, environmental protection and anti-corruption. This is a voluntary initiative which states one of its aims as to work towards the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

In 2002, Jupiter wrote in the Guardian of how the creation of the Compact reflected a 'creeping corporate takeover of the UN itself[14]'. One of the key players instrumental in setting up the Compact was the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the world business organisation which describes itself as 'the voice of world business'[15]. In the words of Jupiter:

'The ICC has been involved with blocking the agreement of several international environmental standards, including the Kyoto protocol on climate change, the Basel convention on toxic waste and the convention on biological diversity. Given this environmentally challenged track record, the fact that the ICC played an instrumental role in setting up the compact should set the alarm bells ringing. After the Seattle protests in 1999, the momentum for corporate globalisation was in danger of stalling. Campaigners pressing the case for international regulation on the environment, labour standards and human rights, staged highly effective protests against the way businesses had acted to craft an international economic order to promote their own ends. For defusing this pressure, what better remedy than to co-opt the UN through firms adopting aims apparently aligned to its peace, security and environment agenda?'

As Annan himself has acknowledged in addressing the UN's general assembly, "The global compact is not intended as, and does not have the capacity to be, a corporate code of conduct or global standard,"[16]. There is no systematic scrutiny of corporate performance against the Compact's principles and Juniper reports that the ICC had 'been at pains to prevent the compact from having compliance or monitoring mechanisms'.

In the words of ICC President Adnan Kassar, quoted in 2000 by the Corporate Europe Observer "Let me make an important proviso. There must be no suggestion of hedging the Global Compact with formal prescriptive rules. We would resist any tendency for that to happen"[17].

Juniper[18] describes the Compact as acting as a smokescreen for corporations to hide behind, an effective method of positive PR with little cost or effort. The article reports that the actions of companies reinforce the strong impression that the Compact is little more that a 'public relations vehicle for companies'. DaimlerChrysler is one example given when the 'automotive mammoth' published a booklet with a picture of one of its senior executives, Matthias Kleinert, shaking hands with Annan in front of the UN flag. The article continues by stating that, 'they are not alone in exploiting this opportunity for public relations purposes: Nike's Phil Knight pulled off a similar photographic coup, while chemicals giant Bayer has cited its membership of the compact as a means of dealing with public criticisms. It is thus difficult not to see the compact as providing a very effective (and cheap) public relations vehicle for international business, while requiring executives to do nothing more.'

In 2005, the New York Times reported that Annan has effectively turned the United Nations into an institution that sees corporations as its partners and thus as part of the solution, not as part of the problem of global governance and development. Annan is quoted as emphasizing that it "is the absence of broad-based business activity, not its presence, that condemns much of humanity to suffering."[19]. This is a contradiction to the UN's World Social Situation report (File:UN World Social Situation report 2005.pdf) published in the same year which stressed that economic growth and income generation (which are key charateristics of the business model) are ineffective as a development strategy as it 'leads to the accumulation of wealth by a few and deepens the poverty of many'. They go on to elaborate that 'foremost among the global dynamics that help explain the root causes of persistant inequality trends are the liberalization policies'[20]. In other words poverty and inequality are increasing primarily through the free and unhindered activities of business, which is the model championed by the ICC. This inequality predicament is not only an issue for 'developing' countries but also for the majority of the world's population including the UK and USA. Another UN report in 2005 entitled the Human Development Report[21] showed how more than 80% of the world's population live in countries with rising inequality. This included much of the EU (including the UK) and the USA. The report stressed that Britain and America have some of the highest levels of poverty in the western world despite being two of the world's top economies with continued economic growth.

The UN stress that the 'persistent and even deepening forms of inequality worldwide should not be accepted with equanimity', they describe business models as being a root cause of this and argue that with the unprecedented wealth and resources available in the world, the most vulnerable cannot continue to be left so far behind[22]. Yet at the same time the United Nations have reached out to business in numerous ways and formed an increasing number of partnerships, even though this contradicts their own findings. It also flies in the face of the realisation, as stated in the New York Times that at the same time as forming these partnerships, 'the United Nations has come to realize that the corporate social responsibility agenda is bound to fail if it is not embedded in a framework of binding rules. In the medium term, an "à la carte" approach to corporate social responsibility will undermine itself through lack of credibility. Responsible business needs a core set of binding rules to credibly be able to counter accusations that its corporate social responsibility initiatives are mere window dressing'[23].

United Nations Environment Programme

The ICC is also affiliated to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The ICC's influence on this programme began in 1984 with the World Industry Conference on Environmental Management, which was held at the Palais des Congres in Versailles. This event led to a joint ICC-UNEP training kit being created for environmental managers (this was published in association with the International Federation of Consulting Engineers)[24].

In 2000, the ICC and the UNEP jointly presented what they termed the 'Millennium Business Award for Environmental Achievement' to 12 companies. The purpose of the award was described as to recognise these companies as some of the 'hidden gems of corporate environmental management'[25]. Israeli cement company Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises Ltd was amongst those receiving awards. Nesher is owned by Irish based company Clal Industries and Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH). Nesher is the only company in Israel which produces cement and following an investigation by Amnesty International in 2004, CRH admitted that their concrete was 'in all probability' being used to construct the separation wall of Palestine[26]. The International Court of Justice has deemed this wall to be in breach of several of the United Nation's Charters, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[27]. In the courts words, it 'constitutes breaches by Israel of various of its obligations under the applicable international humanitarian law and human rights instruments'. The court rejected the Israeli authority's justification of the wall as being one of defence (they found that this did not stand up to the evidence as if it had been so the wall would have been positioned differently), instead they describe how the wall has effectively resulted in thousands of acres of the West Bank’s 'most fertile agricultural land' being 'confiscated by the Israeli Occupation Forces' and in the process people have been displaced, their homes have been destroyed and vast amounts of agricultural land, olive trees, citrus groves and wells have been destroyed which tens of thousands of Palestinians relied upon for their survival. The wall has been condemned by both the International Court of Justice and the United Nations. The Court of Justice has deemed that it should be immediately dismantled and that the Palestinian people should be compensated, yet the Israeli authorities continues to ignore such calls and continue to build it.

The other companies presented with the award were reported to be Aluminium Bahrain (Bahrain), Bahia Sul Cellulose S.A. (Brazil), International Forest Products Ltd (Canada), HiPP (Germany), BSES (India), Tokyo Electric Power Company (Japan), Altos Hornos de Mexico S.A. (Mexico), Cervesur (Peru), Rohner Textile AG (Switzerland), Siam Compressor Industry Co Ltd (Thailand) and The Beacon Press (UK) [28].

The awards formed part of the 33rd World Congress of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in the Hungarian capital Budapest. According to the Corporate Europe Advisor, many politicians from Central European countries as well as representatives from international institutions such as the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation were also in attendance [29].




The ICC website states that 'through membership of ICC, companies shape rules and policies that stimulate international trade and investment. These companies in turn count on the prestige and expertise of ICC to get business views across to governments and intergovernmental organizations, whose decisions affect corporate finances and operations worldwide'[30]. In 2009, their members are listed as:

3M | ABB | Ahold | AIG | Akzo Nobel | Aracruz | Areva | Ariel Finance | AT&T | Baker & McKenzie | Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria | Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ | Barclays Bank | British American Tobacco | Bata | Becker Consulting | BG Group | British Telecom | Byucksan | Cadbury Schweppes | Canon | Chevron | China Construction Bank | China Ocean Shipping Co. (COSCO) | Chinese International Trust & Investment Corp. (CITIC) | Citigroup | Clifford Chance | Coca-Cola | CRA International | Crédit Suisse | Daimler | Danske Bank | Deloitte & Touche | Dentsu | DHL | Diageo | Dow Chemical | Du Pont de Nemours | Eastman Kodak | Ebay | El Corte Inglés | Electrolux | Ericsson | Ernst & Young | ExxonMobil | Federal Express | Fiat | First Gulf Bank | Ford | Fujifilm | Gas Natural | GCC Cementos SA | General Electric | General Motors | Georgia-Pacific | GlaxoSmithKline | Groupe Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP) | Groupe ONA | Handelsbanken | Hewlett-Packard | Hitachi | HSBC | Hyundai Corporation | Iberdrola | IBM | ICI | Imtech | ING | Jardine Matheson | Johnson & Johnson | JK Organisation | J.P. Morgan Chase | Kajima | Kesko Corporation | Kikkoman | Koç Holding | Kone | KPMG Peat Marwick | KPN | La Caixa | Leo Burnett | LG Electronics Inc. | Lockheed Martin | MAPFRE | Marubeni | Matsushita Electric | Mattel | McDonald’s | McGraw-Hill | Merck | Metso | Microsoft | Mitsubishi | Mitsui & Co | Monsanto | Motorola | NEC | Nedlloyd | Nestlé | Nissan Motor | Nokia | Nordea | Norsk Hydro | Novartis | NYK Line | OCBC | Oracle | Osaka Gas | Pfizer | Philips | PricewaterhouseCoopers | Procter & Gamble | Rabobank | Randstad | Renault | Rio Tinto | Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation | Robert Bosch | Romanian Commercial Bank | RWE | Samsung | Sara Lee | Sberbank | SCA | SEB | Shell International | Skanska | SKF | Sony | Standard Chartered Bank | Swedbank | Tata Group | Telecom Italia | Telefonica S.A. | TeliaSonera | Time Warner | Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance | Tokyo Electric Power | Toshiba | Total | Toyota | UBS AG | Unicredit Bank | Czech Republic | Unicredit Bank Russia | Unilever | UPM-Kymmene | UPS | US West | Vattenfall | Veolia | Vnesheconombank | Visa International | Vivendi | Volvo | VTB Bank | Wärtsilä Corporation | Westinghouse | Westpac Banking | Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods | Wing Lung Bank | Xerox

Publications, Contact, Resources and Notes






  1. International Chamber of Commerce What is ICC? Accessed 21st May 2009
  2. International Chamber of Commerce What is ICC? Accessed 21st May 2009
  3. International Chamber of Commerce What is ICC? Accessed 21st May 2009
  4. International Chamber of Commerce What is ICC? Accessed 21st May 2009
  5. International Chamber of Commerce What is ICC? Accessed 21st May 2009
  6. International Chamber of Commerce What is ICC? Accessed 21st May 2009
  7. International Chamber of Commerce United Kingdon Annual Report 2006 Accessed 21st May 2009
  8. International Chamber of Commerce What is ICC? Accessed 21st May 2009
  9. International Chamber of Comemrce World Chambers Federation Accessed 21st May 2009
  10. International Chamber of Commerce Institute of World Business Law Accessed 21st May 2009
  11. International Chamber of Commerce What is ICC? Accessed 21st May 2009
  12. United States Council for International Business USCIB at a glance Accessed 5th June 09
  13. U.S. Council for International Business List of USCIB Members Accessed 10th June 2009
  14. Jupiter, T. (2002) Smoke screen: Bringing corporations to book The Guardian. 31st July 2002. Accessed 15th April 2009
  15. International Chamber of Commerce About the ICC Accessed 15th April 2009
  16. Jupiter, T. (2002) Smoke screen: Bringing corporations to book The Guardian. 31st July 2002. Accessed 15th April 2009
  17. Corporate Europe Observer (2000) ICC steps up counter-campaign against critics of corporate-led globalisation. Issue 7. October 2000. Accessed 28th May 2009.
  18. Jupiter, T. (2002) Smoke screen: Bringing corporations to book The Guardian. 31st July 2002. Accessed 15th April 2009
  19. Benner, T. (2005) ( The UN can help business help itself New York Times. August 18th 2005. Accessed 28th May 2009
  20. United Nations (2005) World Social Situation United Nations Publication 2005
  21. United Nations (2005) Human Development Report. United Nations Publications 2005
  22. United Nations (2005) Human Development Report. United Nations Publications 2005
  23. Benner, T. (2005) ( The UN can help business help itself New York Times. August 18th 2005. Accessed 28th May 2009
  24. United Nations Environment Programme UNEP and ICC Sponsor Millennium Business Awards for Environmental performance 5th May 2000. Accessed 28th May 2009
  25. United Nations Environment Programme UNEP and ICC Sponsor Millennium Business Awards for Environmental performance 5th May 2000. Accessed 28th May 2009
  26. Stop the Wall Organisation The Pension Fund: involvement in violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in Palestine 2009 Briefing. Accessed 28th May 2009
  27. International Court of Justice (2004) Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 9th July 2004. Accessed 10th June 2009
  28. United Nations Environment Programme UNEP and ICC Sponsor Millennium Business Awards for Environmental performance 5th May 2000. Accessed 28th May 2009
  29. Corporate Europe Observer (2000) ICC steps up counter-campaign against critics of corporate-led globalisation. Issue 7. October 2000. Accessed 28th May 2009.
  30. International Chamber of Commerce Links to ICC Members Accessed 21st May 2009