Mapping the ‘violence footprint’ of UK-listed companies and their operations in Cambodia

This project will create the first online database and visualization of the ‘violence footprint’ of UK-listed companies and their subsidiaries in Cambodia. Hosting this data on a publicly accessible website allows affected communities to identify responsible UK-listed parent companies and pursue accountability through the UK legal system.

Overview

The overarching question guiding this project is "what is the ‘violence footprint’ of UK-listed companies and their operations in Cambodia?". The research specifically centres around UK-listed companies based on the London Stock Exchange and Alternative Investment Market, operating in the forestry and paperagribusiness and mining sectors. It also focusses on these UK companies’ activities and their relation to violence toward environmental defenders in Cambodia, and the impact on global efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This project directly addresses SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), with the consequences of unsustainable exploitation and violence against defenders impacting SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 15 (Life on Land).  

Project description

This project will create the first online database and visualization of the ‘violence footprint’ of UK-listed companies and their subsidiaries in Cambodia. Hosting this data on a publicly accessible website allows affected communities to identify responsible UK-listed parent companies and pursue accountability through the UK legal system. The project also provides the opportunity to re-engage with partner organisations from a recently closed SSRP-funded and British Academy-supported project on 'Atmospheres of Violence' and environmental defenders.

Firstly the aim is to trace the relations between UK-listed companies in these sectors and their reach in Cambodia. This mapping of UK-listed companies’ sites of operation is then used to cross-reference with:

  • existing open databases of environmental justice conflicts (e.g. the Environmental Justice Atlas);
  • documented allegations of Human Rights abuses recorded with the UN’s network or by reputable NGOs;
  • records of cases taken up by academic Human Rights law centres;
  • company ownership information using Orbis. 

An accessible, short report condensing the findings will be published through Not1More and Policy@Sussex.This will be translated to Khmer and a press release will generate coverage in the Cambodian and international press. This report and selected data will be shared online in the form of a data sheet and visualisations so that others can build on this work including journalists, Cambodian youth and community members, academics and organisations. 

Working in partnership with Not1More and Cambodian Youth Network (CYN) this project also focusses on capacity building for frontline youth environmental defenders. The focus lies on three main areas: 

  1. Human rights research and investigation skills (a session introducing youth activists to sources of online data, human rights responsibility of companies under their own stated policies and safeguards, social science research methods)
  2. GIS mapping and satellite analysis skills (upgrade training for youth using GIS and satellite imagery to document and map environmental destruction, timber industry impacts and land rights) 
  3. Accountability workshop (a conversation inviting local NGOs, including Cambodian Center for Human Rights; Equitable Cambodia; Sahmakum Teang Tnaut; Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO); Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) and other local human rights groups, to map accountability mechanisms)  

To date, no attempt has been made to examine the ‘violence footprint’ of specific firms or listing jurisdictions. Since 2016, the UK Government has explicitly expressed support for monitoring and redressing human rights abuses perpetrated by UK companies operating abroad. However, on both the London Stock Exchange and the Alternative Investment Market, companies that have been reported to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) or associated with human rights abuses have avoided sanctions (or been allowed to re-list under different names). 

This project will work in conjunction with Cambodian environmental defenders to increase their research capacity, knowledge of accessible data sources and to jointly workshop avenues to accountability.

Timeline and funding

Timeline

February 2022-July 2022

Funding

SSRP funding (£12,000)

Expected impacts and outcomes

New data on the violence footprint of UK companies overseas will complement already existing resources such as the Environmental Justice Atlas, which do not yet link environmental justice conflicts to corporate structures. This will be made accessible through visualisations (generated by LittleSis, Onodo and Kumu) hosted online by the University of Sussex and Not1More. This online resource will be available for use by campaigners based in the UK, as well as environmental defenders and their communities overseas, who may wish to hold UK companies to account.  

The report and data visualisations will be shared with policymakers and regulators to discuss requirements for oversight of UK-listed companies in the mining, agribusiness and forestry sectors, and encourage listing authorities and financial regulators to incorporate human rights and environmental justice considerations more explicitly in their decision-making. The data and visualizations produced through this project will be used to pilot an approach to investigating the ‘violence footprint’ communications that could in further work be developed as a means to facilitate engagement with regulators such as the London Stock Exchange Group, Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and Financial Conduct Authority.  

Moreover, this project will create a novel dataset and contribute to emerging efforts to think through ‘embedded human rights abuses’. This database will create a first pilot for further work on the ‘violence footprint’, and the data will be accessible to other researchers studying human rights abuses, corporate accountability and environmental change. The short report published through the University of Sussex and Not1More will reach both academic and policy-maker audiences in the EU and UK, and will ideally stimulate further studies specific to other jurisdictions. In Cambodia, research skills will be developed through training from the University of Sussex which will include a range of tools – social science research methods, GIS mapping, and assessment of accountability mechanisms. 

Overall, the project increases connections of solidarity between UK and Cambodian NGOs and academics enhancing existing connections developed through the 'Atmospheres of Violence' research project that investigated violence against environmental defenders in six countries including Cambodia.  

The team

Where we worked

Cambodia.