Moralizing the Corporation

Moralizing the Corporation

Transnational Activism and Corporate Accountability

Boris Holzer

This insightful book examines how transnational corporations respond to the challenges of anti-corporate activism and political consumerism. In prominent cases involving major corporations such as Nestlé, Nike and Royal Dutch/Shell, transnational activists have successfully mobilized public opinion and consumers against alleged corporate misdemeanours. Campaigns and boycott calls can harm a corporation’s image but, as this book points out, public scrutiny also gives corporations the opportunity to present themselves as responsible and accountable corporate citizens who subscribe to the very norms and values propagated by the activists.

Chapter 9: Conclusion

Boris Holzer

Subjects: business and management, corporate social responsibility, organisation studies, public management, politics and public policy, public administration and management


Large corporations have become one of the primary targets of transnational activism. To advocacy groups the transnational corporation (TNC) appears to be a convenient conduit for their political goals. TNCs are engaged in many projects across the world, some of which are environmentally harmful or based on the exploitation of low wages and insufficient labour standards; but they are also indirectly involved in grievances and human rights violations in developing countries. Social movement activists therefore seek to influence not only particular decisions but also corporate policies as a whole. Although their campaigns focus on particular brands and corporations the intended effects often lie beyond any specific organization, which merely serves as the representative of certain issues. Like other varieties of transnational activism, anti-corporate protest relies on ‘boomerang effects’ when local groups link up with allies from abroad to put pressure on a corporation or on their own government (cf. Keck and Sikkink 1998b). But it also employs ‘outside-in’ campaigns that seek to change conditions in other countries and ‘dual target’ campaigns that target a corporation both in a particular locale and in other countries (cf. Hertel 2006). Furthermore, anti-corporate campaigns often focus on the place of consumption rather than on the place of production because that is where politically and ethically minded consumers can be mobilized most effectively. Transnational advocacy groups have to rely on discursive forms of power to put pressure on corporations. And many TNCs are susceptible to discursive power because they have invested time and money into...

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