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Global rules - private actors: The role of the multinational corporation in global governance


Baumann, D. Global rules - private actors: The role of the multinational corporation in global governance. 2009, University of Zurich, Faculty of Economics.

Abstract

In the context of globalization, research and practice of what is commonly referred to as “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) have become increasingly popular. For example, anecdotal evidence shows that, in the global context, private actors such as corporations or NGOs have begun to fill regulatory gaps and contribute to the provision of global public goods (Kaul 1999, 2003; Trebesch 2008; Williams 2008). The term “CSR” currently covers a variety of corporate activities, however, it is unclear which of these actually constitute a new phenomenon (Matten et al. 2003). Moreover, there are currently no tools available by which the political role of corporations in emerging global governance structures can be observed and measured empirically (Rasche 2008; Smith 2003: 72). Consequently, the implementation status of “political CSR” can up to now not be assessed.

This dissertation fills these research gaps. First, it theoretically develops a more specific concept for CSR: “Corporate Citizenship” (CC). Building on theories in political science and acknowledging the “political” role of corporations in global governance, CC establishes a new role for the corporation in the global economy (Matten & Crane 2005).

Second, the articulation of the CC concept serves as the starting point for the theoretical development of an assessment tool for the “embeddedness” of CC in organizational structures and procedures. The implications of a political role for corporations are discussed and built into the tool. Based on three dimensions of CC (commitment; structural and procedural; and interactive), the tool structures the implementation process in five learning stages (defensive, compliance, managerial, strategic, and civil). The civil stage describes political corporate behavior and corresponds with the understanding of CC of this study (Zadek 2004).

Finally, the use of the assessment tool in an empirical study of five Swiss MNCs reveals that some corporations are more advanced in systematically realizing CC than others. The results also show a typical implementation pattern among the companies of the sample. All companies demonstrate a strong commitment to CC and are currently working to implement CC on a structural and procedural level. Yet the interactive dimension is weakly developed throughout the sample, even in relatively advanced companies. This causes risks for corporate legitimacy. Therefore, the final discussion of an issue-specific extension of the assessment tool presents methods for setting priorities in the approach to CC that may also facilitate corporate engagement with stakeholders.

The dissertation thus clarifies the role of the corporation as a private actor in global governance on a conceptual and an empirical level. It contributes to our theoretical understanding of CC as a new phenomenon in globalization and furthers the development of appropriate approaches to CC in practice.

Abstract

In the context of globalization, research and practice of what is commonly referred to as “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) have become increasingly popular. For example, anecdotal evidence shows that, in the global context, private actors such as corporations or NGOs have begun to fill regulatory gaps and contribute to the provision of global public goods (Kaul 1999, 2003; Trebesch 2008; Williams 2008). The term “CSR” currently covers a variety of corporate activities, however, it is unclear which of these actually constitute a new phenomenon (Matten et al. 2003). Moreover, there are currently no tools available by which the political role of corporations in emerging global governance structures can be observed and measured empirically (Rasche 2008; Smith 2003: 72). Consequently, the implementation status of “political CSR” can up to now not be assessed.

This dissertation fills these research gaps. First, it theoretically develops a more specific concept for CSR: “Corporate Citizenship” (CC). Building on theories in political science and acknowledging the “political” role of corporations in global governance, CC establishes a new role for the corporation in the global economy (Matten & Crane 2005).

Second, the articulation of the CC concept serves as the starting point for the theoretical development of an assessment tool for the “embeddedness” of CC in organizational structures and procedures. The implications of a political role for corporations are discussed and built into the tool. Based on three dimensions of CC (commitment; structural and procedural; and interactive), the tool structures the implementation process in five learning stages (defensive, compliance, managerial, strategic, and civil). The civil stage describes political corporate behavior and corresponds with the understanding of CC of this study (Zadek 2004).

Finally, the use of the assessment tool in an empirical study of five Swiss MNCs reveals that some corporations are more advanced in systematically realizing CC than others. The results also show a typical implementation pattern among the companies of the sample. All companies demonstrate a strong commitment to CC and are currently working to implement CC on a structural and procedural level. Yet the interactive dimension is weakly developed throughout the sample, even in relatively advanced companies. This causes risks for corporate legitimacy. Therefore, the final discussion of an issue-specific extension of the assessment tool presents methods for setting priorities in the approach to CC that may also facilitate corporate engagement with stakeholders.

The dissertation thus clarifies the role of the corporation as a private actor in global governance on a conceptual and an empirical level. It contributes to our theoretical understanding of CC as a new phenomenon in globalization and furthers the development of appropriate approaches to CC in practice.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Dissertation
Referees:Scherer A G, Thommen J-P
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Business Administration
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Date:2009
Deposited On:29 Jan 2010 21:58
Last Modified:06 Dec 2017 21:44

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