AFSC and Economic Activism
Investigate is a project of the Economic Activism Program of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Founded in 1917, AFSC is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social relations and systems. AFSC has worked for decades in social movements against mass incarceration, the militarization of police and the border, for the rights of immigrants and formerly incarcerated people, for peace, and for the rights of people under a military occupation around the world.
AFSC has a long history of supporting non-violent campaigns through research, training, and strategy consultation. During the civil rights movement, AFSC provided logistical support to Martin Luther King and helped popularize his stance on nonviolence by publishing his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. Later, AFSC worked closely with César Chávez, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, to organize farm workers and improve working conditions and wages. In 1969, a group of AFSC staff formed NARMIC: National Action/Research on the Military Industrial Complex, to research companies profiting from the Vietnam War and publish materials for the use of the anti-war movement. Even before AFSC, Quakers were economic activism trailblazers, initiating the anti-slavery Free Produce Movement and instituting the first socially responsible investment screens by Friends Fiduciary Corporation in 1898.
AFSC’s Economic Activism Program is located in the AFSC office in Oakland, CA. It promotes economic activism and corporate social responsibility through corporate research, strategic support, education and training, the sharing of skills, and the convening of stakeholders. It reaches out to responsible investors, community activists, and interfaith partners with information and tools to support the building of wide networks that can influence, limit, and monitor corporate power. In addition, the program engages with corporations, business stakeholders, shareholders, and investor networks on these issues, and supports shareholder activism and initiatives that promote standards and guidance for corporate behavior.
The Investigate Project
The Investigate project aims to expose corporate involvement in oppressive state violence structures and to promote standards for corporate social responsibility and respect for human rights.
Large corporations hold immense political power and enjoy legal impunity across state borders. When such economic actors profit from mass incarceration, military occupation, immigrant detention, or surveillance and policing, they tend to use their political influence to deepen and entrench these harmful activities. Coordinated public leverage and multi-stakeholder engagement with these corporations can create a new standard for corporate behavior, with direct benefits to people’s lives and well-being as well as the indirect outcome of affecting economic interests that influence decision makers.
The Investigate project reaches out to the responsible investment community, to community activists, and to interfaith partners with information and tools for corporate engagement, corporate accountability, and divestment initiatives, to support the building of wide movements that can influence, limit, and monitor corporate abuse.
Our research efforts focus on corporations involved in incarceration and immigrant detention, the Israeli occupation, and the border industries. These are AFSC program focus areas, where there is an identified lack of available resources, coupled with explicit requests for such resources from the movements we work with.
Our database is based on our in-house independent research. We use a variety of sources:
- We quote research by other independent research initiatives. For example: much of our information about corporate involvement in the occupation industry is based on the publications of Who Profits research center. Our research about corporate involvement in the prison and border industries is informed by work published by Prison Legal News, the Corrections Accountability Project, and Urban Justice Center.
- We collect and analyze company publications as well as academic and media reports.
- When possible, we conduct field research to collect reports and evidence from the communities most affected.
- We cross check what we know against official and legal documents using government publications and at times FOIA requests.
Please contact us with any corrections, additions, or information requests.