So much has happened this year – from war to climate disasters, razor-thin election wins to billionaire takeovers. But amidst all the darkness, our movement is a growing light, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we achieved together in 2022.
Click to watch a short video featuring some of our exciting highlights, and scroll below to read all about it!
Our campaigns are all over the media
From our reports on the metaverse and Brazilian elections, to our shareholder activism and campaign deliveries – SumOfUs is getting noticed all over the world through top-tier media hits. This year we were in the New York Times, Financial Times, Washington Post, Sunday Times, and New York Post, as well as El País, Time (twice!), Reuters, Business Insider, ARTE, CNN, Al Jazeera, The Independent, Wired, and Bloomberg. Thanks to our high-integrity, creative, people-powered campaigning, we are becoming the go-to resource for reporters covering key issues that we work on.
A glimpse of the many media outlets that covered our work in 2022
We’re protecting huge swathes of rainforest – and bonobos!
When we got word that a 20-year ban on industrial logging was about to be lifted in the Congo Basin, threatening to rip apart the only home of endangered bonobos and the Indigenous communities that protect them, we quickly took action. With thousands of us donating, we helped protect and secure 4,850 square kilometers of rainforest and empower the Mongandu people with vital medical and safety equipment they need to defend their land and bonobos from loggers. Now this beautiful, pioneering, and sustainable model of conservancy is expanding, and it’s because of our amazing community that we’re even closer to securing official protection for 2 million acres of this rainforest.
We’re protecting huge swathes of land in the Congo Basin’s rainforests in central Africa
And over in Santa Marta, Colombia, we were able to complete our partner Rainforest Trust’s project to fund the purchase and protection of a massive area of rainforest in Colombia’s Caribbean region. Protected by Indigenous communities for centuries, it’s now under critical threat from mining, tourism, and urbanization. But with our help, the Kogui, Malayo, and Arhuaco Peoples will now have almost 500,000 acres of their land added to a protected National Park, plus have patrols and supervision funded to ensure it stays healthy and intact for generations to come.
Indigenous community members in Colombia’s Santa Marta, courtesy of Rainforest Trust and RKMA
We’re providing life-saving assistance in Ukraine
In the span of a few days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, more of us donated to our community's Ukraine fundraiser than to any other fundraising campaign in SumOfUs' ten year history. This incredible outpouring brought hope and life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people on the ground -- people other major humanitarian efforts often overlook and ignore. This is what we can do together: crowdsource unprecedented funding and direct it to the bravest activists in the middle of the toughest fights. In a matter of just days we were able to rush hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups working on the frontline, with hundreds of thousands more going out in the weeks that followed to groups with funding needs. Among the most recent donations was to an organisation called Support Hospitals that procures and ships medical equipment to Ukrainian hospitals.
Our partners Letjaha delivering aid to a hospital in Ukraine
We’re blocking mega climate-polluting projects
Munich Re, a European insurance company, was set to insure the East African Crude Oil Pipeline which would rip through Uganda and Tanzania and cause unprecedented damage to local livelihoods and the environment. Without insurance, these projects can’t move forward. So we mobilized quickly by building a petition and sending thousands of personalized emails to executives. The execs were so overwhelmed, they asked our partners to tell us to stop emailing them. But our people-power worked! In April, just weeks after we began mobilizing, Munich Re ruled out insuring the pipeline.
But it gets better. We kept up pressure on the company to stop insuring and underwriting all oil and gas projects, and they agreed!
Meanwhile in Canada, the Trans Mountain Pipeline is a reckless project that would increase oil tanker traffic by seven hundred percent and endanger already-struggling Orca whales. After 250,000 of us signed a petition calling on companies to stop insuring the pipeline, delivering our call directly to company doorsteps, and working closely with a network of partners, together we pushed 19 companies to agree!
This has been a years-long campaign, and our progress is helping to ensure these disastrous projects can’t move forward.
SumOfUs members' names were delivered to Liberty Mutual in Vancouver, Canada
We’re making deforestation unprofitable
Since 2020, hundreds of thousands of SumOfUs members from around the world have petitioned and sent messages to EU officials, filled their Twitter mentions, and even sent them memes urging them to stop corporations profiting from deforestation – and just now lawmakers agreed a law to guarantee that products sold in the EU are not linked to the destruction or degradation of forests. This doesn’t mean we stop pushing corporations and financial institutions directly to change – but once this law kicks-in, we’ll have a powerful new tool for defending people and the planet against corporate greed.
We are helping to protect natural habitats through a powerful new law that ensures products in Europe aren’t linked to the destruction of forests
And in Colombia, our campaign for the Indigenous Misak and Nasa, and Afro-descendant and Campesino communities to recover their land from the destruction of the paper company Smurfit Kappa brought incredible impact. Thank you again to everyone who donated! With those funds we were able to publish the first report on Smurfit Kappa’s socio-environmental impacts in Colombia, and fly an Indigenous leader, Pedro Josse Velasco Tumiña, to the company’s AGM in Ireland which we disrupted and received top-tier media coverage. We then held a series of advocacy meetings in Ireland and Bogotá with the UN, EU representatives and the Irish ambassador. Our fight to protect these communities is far from over but we’ve created a strong foundation to build on in 2023!
SumOfUs with Indigenous leader, Pedro Josse Velasco Tumiña, outside Smurfit Kappa’s AGM in Ireland
We’re taking on massive tech companies, and we’re winning!
In April, after years of debate, European legislators finally agreed to pass a strong internet law – the Digital Services Act.
At critical moments, we quickly mobilized to flood key Members of the European Parliament with thousands of messages demanding action. And we coupled this with behind the scenes advocacy – including legal analysis, policy expertise, and hand-deliveries to key decision-makers consisting of beautiful books with EU citizens’ hopes and dreams for a better online world. Tens of thousands of us also joined citizens and organisations across Europe in signing a People’s Declaration against Big Tech, showing that this is a priority for people everywhere.
Members of the European Parliament holding up our placards calling for strong action on the DSA. From left: Kim Van Sparrentak (Greens/European Free Alliance), Paul Tang (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats), Alexandra Geese (Greens/European Free Alliance)
Metaverse – another toxic cesspool
We launched an investigation into Facebook’s new virtual-reality platform, and in just an hour our researchers were exposed to upsetting experiences from a gun shootout to sexual assault. The researchers were astounded by how quick and easy it was to stumble into disturbing situations, and how traumatic virtual encounters can be. We synched the release of the research with a shareholder resolution that SumOfUs members filed at Meta’s annual shareholder meeting asking the company to produce a report on the human rights impacts of its metaverse platform.
The report received overwhelming media attention, with hundreds of outlets from the US to Italy to India covering the research, and highlighting our recommendations.
Within days of our research gaining massive attention and dozens of journalists requesting comments from Meta, the company announced several measures to address harassment on its metaverse platform. Unfortunately the measures aren’t nearly enough to adequately protect users from harm, but the rapid response from Meta shows that our campaigning is forcing a response.
Our metaverse report in Gizmodo -- a prominent outlet which tech execs read
We exposed Brazil’s Stop the Steal movement
SumOfUs members pushed for tougher action on social media platforms that were promoting election disinformation in the run-up to the hotly-contested Brazilian Presidential election. Alongside SumOfUs members signing a petition calling on these platforms to act, we put the public spotlight on this issue, with our investigations featuring in major international news outlets like Time, the Washington Post and the New York Times. We were invited to present our research findings to Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court, which then exercised its power to demand further action from the platforms. We also sent weekly newsletters in partnership with a fact-checking agency in Brazil, providing high quality, non-partisan, fact-checked information about the elections to our over 200,000 Brazilian members every week!
Our projection outside of Meta’s offices in London where Nick Clegg, its policy chief, works from
Our shareholder activism is reaching new heights
This year we recruited hundreds of new independent investors to take on companies through shareholder resolutions. Shareholder activism is a key way to force companies to address our concerns, and as our list of shareholders grows, so will our power and impact. Click here if you’d like to get involved.
Here are some of our highlights from 2022:
SumOfUs members forced Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to address the implications of placing data centres in countries with human rights abuses - for example Saudi Arabia, where the company intends to build a large facility. This resolution received a massive 57.6% of the independent investor vote. We can – and will - use this strong support in the coming months to pressure Google to reconsider partnerships with such brutal regimes. And we’re filing a second resolution to be voted on at the 2023 AGM!
Media attention on our Alphabet resolution about data centers in rights abusing countries
We highlighted Apple’s use of Uyghur forced labor in its supply chain, and mobilized customers and shareholders to pressure the company to act. SumOfUs members submitted a shareholder proposal on the company’s policies to protect workers in its supply chain from forced labor and it got 34% of the vote – quite high for a first-time filing!
We have submitted a follow-up resolution for the 2023 AGM shareholder vote and are engaged in direct discussions with Apple about the lack of transparency in their supply chain reporting, particularly on the use of Uyghur forced labor.
SumOfUs action outside Apple store in Washington DC
In addition to the Metaverse resolution, SumOfUs members co-filed a second resolution highlighting the ineffectiveness of the company’s Risk and Audit committee, which is supposed to fix the harms caused by platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
We reached out to over 4000 major investors who have shares in Meta warning them of the risks posed by the company. We ran TV ads on US networks pointing out the need for change at Meta, and SumOfUs' Executive Director, Emma, addressed shareholders at Meta's annual meeting calling on them to back our resolutions. Even though the resolutions didn’t pass (Mark Zuckerberg owns the majority of votes and so can kill any proposal he doesn’t agree with) a third of independent shareholders backed our resolution – helping to add pressure on Zuckerberg to act.
For 2023, we will refile the Risk resolution and also file a resolution challenging Meta’s refusal to release their report on the Human Rights impacts of their operations in India, their largest market, where Meta platforms provide massive reach for the incitement of religiously-motivated violence.
We’re stopping operations on stolen land in Palestine
For years, General Mills oversaw a factory on stolen Palestinian land, helping legitimise and uphold apartheid. It was one of 18 international companies named by the UN’s report on business related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Over 120,000 SumOfUs members signed a petition calling on General Mills to stop supporting Israeli apartheid, we sent over 2000 emails to executives, and met with one of the company's Vice Presidents to deliver our message. All this pressure worked – the company announced it will divest from the Occupied Territories! In the face of insurmountable injustice and oppression in Palestine, this was a major win.
General Mills will no longer be making its Pillsbury products on stolen Palestinian land
We’re keeping the lights on for families in Uganda
As cost of living sharply increased this year, rural households in Uganda that have no access to the electric grid have been hit hard by the skyrocketing price of kerosene. So with a local partner, and the support of SumOfUs members, we were able to light up two villages with solar power – transforming the lives of over 1,000 families! And the best part is we’ve helped empower a new generation of local engineers to help these communities continue to thrive.
Kisaabwa, Uganda, a newly trained engineer on installing a solar lighting system. Courtesy of Solar Links
We’re making forced deportations to Rwanda significantly harder
We’ve helped make it much harder for the UK government to deliver on its egregious policies targeting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Four of the six airlines it was lining up to carry out forced deportations to Rwanda have now pulled out, and our community played a key role targeting all four through a petition, messages, and tweets.
We’re reuniting child refugees with their families
As we’ve seen the number of refugees across Europe skyrocket, many of them are unaccompanied children who have been traumatized by war, living in squalid camps or on the streets, and are easy prey for traffickers. Earlier this year, when grassroots teams across Europe saw their workloads surge overnight, they asked for our help. With thousands of SumOfUs members answering the call, we were able to supercharge their efforts to reunite 100 child refugees — and counting! — with their loved ones, and give these minors the safety and love that they so desperately need.
We’re holding the EU accountable for its ties to Big Pharma
When news hit that the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was exchanging secret text messages with Pfizer’s CEO during Europe’s vaccine negotiations, our community jumped on building a mega-petition and running ads exposing the shady deal. We revved up our media machine and managed to get the issue covered by one of the main outlets covering EU politics in English, by a big German newspaper, and by a bunch of smaller outlets. We also supported our partner who filed an official Freedom of Information request to obtain the communications. All this helped push the EU Public Prosecutor’s office to open an investigation into Covid vaccine purchases. This campaign isn’t over yet, but we’ve already made tremendous progress bringing transparency and accountability to Europe’s shady vaccine deals.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla at the Atlantic Council last year
Lastly, we’re helping to create the longest wildlife corridor in East Africa
When an essential breeding ground for elephants in Kenya came under threat, a nearby Maasai community reached out for help.
With thousands of members donating, we were able to grant the Nashulai Conservancy enough funding to ensure they could sign on additional Maasai landholders and extend the protected area managed by the park. Their new addition measured 25km, a key step toward their aim to create the longest wildlife corridor in east Africa. The picture below is from the signing event where Maasai landholders joined the conservancy, thereby protecting the breeding ground – and giving these individuals some economic security.
Maasai signing event where landowners joined the conservancy
This update is only a glimpse into what we achieved together this year. From protecting Indigenous rights in Latin America to changing a hardware chain’s engagement with glyphosate in Australia – we are creating impact in every corner of the world, and none of it would be possible without members like you.