What can you do against big multinationals if they do wrong? How can I stand up against these conglomerates in order to protect environmental, economic and social rights? The Crowd Versus has found the perfect and simple answer: crowdfunding for legal action!
Who are The Crowd Versus?
We are a crowdfunding platform for targeted legal actions against multinationals – and if necessary governments – that make their profits at the expense of people or nature. You can support our cases by donating money. Our core business – to use a multinational phrase - is to support these cases with money. But of course we also put the spotlights on these cases, to make sure companies can no longer get what they want by working in the shadow.
How do you pick your cases? Today Chevron and Monsanto… Tomorrow Facebook or a whole country?
Currently we crowdfund versus bee-killing pesticides; Chevron oil spill; Tarsands mining; GMO Corn in Mexico; and Ibutho Coal. This last case concerns opening a large open-cast coal mine in an area where native people live and the world largest concentration of rhino’s is found.
We only support NGO’s/nonprofits that are familiar with the case and know the people on behalf of whom the case is set up. If a NGO/nonprofit wants a case to be crowdfunded through The Crowd Versus, we always make sure that such organization is financial solvent. The legal action itself needs to meet criteria like: If successful, does it create a major positive impact, is it feasible, has there been retained knowledgeable counseling for the legal action, and is the case part of a grass roots movement standing up against a powerful party that is clearly involved in an unjust practice.
We do these checks carefully, because we want of course to make sure that the crowd supports the right cases.
Who are the people behind The Crowd Versus?
We were founded by a group of people that believe legal action can be an effective way to make multinationals – and if necessary governments – do the right thing. The people behind The Crowd Versus (formally existing as Grrrowd) have backgrounds in human rights law, green banking, activism and enterprise. A year ago, four concerned marketing and communications bureaus from Amsterdam joined us, by helping The Crowd Versus with their communication and marketing. We currently have 7 people involved dedicating part of their free time to The Crowd Versus. And there is room for more people! So if you want to join and help: please do!
But big companies have deep pockets. How can you win a case? Chevron for instance already spent more than a billion on legal fees, because they don’t want to pay for their pollution in Ecuador. Monsanto and friends already spent hundreds of millions to grow GMO Crops all over the world. How can you withstand them?
You are right. These companies do have lots of money, but they don’t have a crowd. Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not easy. But look at Mexico: when Monsanto and friends tried to lobby their GMO Corn into Mexico by growing it under scientific flag on “a small scale”, legal action of the local people did result in a temporary ban on GMO Corn until court decides on whether GMO Corn will be allowed. By bringing the case to court, 8000 native corn crops have been protected for now!
But it’s not only legal action against companies. Sometimes legal action against governments can be more useful. If a government is forced to make the right rules or to act according to the law, the companies should adapt and they can adapt quickly. An example of a case we support against a government is The Crowd versus Tarsands Mining (oilsands mining). The Canadian Taiga, the world largest boreal forest (nearly the size of Switzerland) holding the world’s largest carbon sink, is threatened by the Tarsands Mining Companies. Also threatened are the traditional lives of the inhabitants. Instead of fighting a single oil company like Shell or Exxon, the Indigenous Indians are accusing the governments of Canada and Alberta for breaking their treaty promises by allowing thousands of permits for destructive tarsands developments on their territory. In 1876, the Canadian Crown promised the First Nations that in exchange for sharing their lands and keeping the peace, they could keep their way of life, culture and the right to “hunt, fish, trap in perpetuity”.
Now with Trump in the White house, issues like climate change won’t be resolved. That’s not good news.
Amidst all the disbelief, shock and fear, I heard also a sound: “unite now, start a movement, that’s what you can do”. The Crowd Versus can be part of this movement. We can make multinationals and governments obey the law, despite whatever horrible things this angry man in the White House calls out against women, climate and “the other”.
The Cases seem to be all about energy and food. Is there more?
Well, unfortunately, social, economically and environmental issues often go hand in hand. So yes, there is much more. And the cases we support provide a solution for this. That’s why we set up this thing!
What’s the most recent case you started?
The Crowd Versus Bee-Killing Pesticides. We are crowdfunding 8750 euro for a legal intervention before the General Court of the European Union to support a EU-wide ban of bee-harming pesticides that came into force in 2013. Now, the producers of these pesticides, Syngenta and Bayer, want to overturn this ban before the General Court. We just began raising the money and already have got 10% of the money we aim for. The trial will take place in the first quarter of 2017, so we have 2 months left. It would be great though, if we reach the target far before Christmas!
How does it work if I want to support a case?
Well, we crowdfund money for targeted legal action, so just go onto our website and donate for the case you want to support. You can also help by sharing the case on social media and liking us on Facebook. Invite all your friends to do the same. That’s what we want: our crowd to help the crowd to become a bigger crowd, so the lawsuits will be financially backed by more and more people.
And how can people support The Crowd Versus?
To help the crowd growing, you can help us by actively liking and sharing our news on Facebook, retweet in Twitter, forward and of course subscribe to our newsletter and forward any news around our cases to your friends. But you can also help by joining the communication team. We need people to cover the social media, to follow case news and help produce content and to help translating content into French, Spanish or German. We are also looking for “country leaders”, people that can activate The Crowd Versus in their country of origin (Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, UK, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Iceland etc.) We can pay the central communication person who makes the content and covers the social media actively a small percentage of the donations. The same goes for the “country leaders”, but it will certainly take time before these payments can add up to a “standard” hourly fee. For the technical aspect we are currently looking for a video editor to help with videos for new cases.
So, if you are going to succeed, a new multinational is born?
Well, let’s put it this way: not a multinational that is working for profit, but for justice! We are a “stichting” so our goal is not to make money! We will not be the next NGO like Greenpeace, Oxfam or Amnesty, who are by the way doing great work! We are the new facilitating platform that helps NGO’s raising money for legal action against those making profits at the expense of the environment or humanity as a whole. And hopefully The Crowd will become bigger and bigger, so we can support more the cases better and better.
The crowd versus on facebook
Illustration: Le poisson