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International Corporations

Why/how should corporates defend civil society space? Good new paper + case studies

Duncan Green's picture

I saw some effective academic-NGO cooperation last week, and even better, it involved some of my LSE students.

The occasion was the launch of Beyond Integrity: Exploring the role of business in preserving civil society space, commissioned and published by the Charities Aid Foundation and written by Silky Agrawal, Brooks Reed and Riya Saxena, three of last year’s LSE Masters students. They researched and wrote the report as part of a student consultancy project, and CAF were so impressed that they decided to publish it. Result.

First the content: the authors went looking for cases where businesses had got involved in defending civil society from attacks by government, and identified four really interesting cases (see table). They interviewed a number of the players in each case.

They found some ‘key learnings’ (bit depressing to see them already adopting the barbarisms of aidspeak!):

  • Firms in consumer-facing industries are responsive to large-scale social movements that raise awareness regarding human rights abuses;
  • Privately owned companies with strong ethics and values tied into the core business model, led by engaged leaders, are likely to respond to civil society;
  • At times, privately held dialogues between key stakeholders and host governments can be more effective at initiating positive action than a public challenge, as the respect and dignity of each stakeholder is maintained;
  • Leveraging formal and informal cross-sectoral networks is instrumental in convincing corporations to act on behalf of civil society.

The world’s top 100 economies: 31 countries; 69 corporations

Duncan Green's picture

The campaigning NGO Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement) have done us all a favour by updating the table comparing the economic might of the largest countries and corporations. Headline finding? "The number of businesses in the top 100 economic entities jumped to 69 in 2015 from 63 in the previous year’ according to the Guardian’s summary.

The last such table that I know of was produced by the World Bank, and became one of FP2P’s all time most read posts (it included cities as well as countries, which made it even more interesting).

People complained that the Bank table compared apples and pears – national GDP and corporate turnover. GJN have tried to do a better job by comparing government revenues (from the CIA World Factbook) and corporate turnover (Fortune Global 500 – ditto). That reduces the country figure – in the case of Argentina, revenues come to about 30% of GDP, generally a higher slice for developed, and lower for poorer countries, and so boosts the relative importance of transnationals. Is that a fairer comparison? Over to the number crunchers on that one.