Moralizing the Corporation
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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.
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Chapter 7: Conflicts and Coalitions

Boris Holzer


The engagement with various stakeholders is a defining element of current approaches to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Critics are invited to join dialogue programmes and mediation processes regarding controversial issues (Amy 1987; van Es and Meijlink 2000; Zadek 2001) or even get involved in long-term alliances with companies (Doh 2008; Elkington and Fennell 1998; Schneidewind and Petersen 1998). Some observers argue that such forms of stakeholder engagement can help to foster a form of ‘civil regulation’ in which nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) assume the role of setting and monitoring standards in cooperation with business (Bendell 2000b; Vogel 2005, Ch. 7). Others regard discourse and dialogue with stakeholders and critics as an essential feature of corporate citizenship (Scherer and Palazzo 2007; Sethi 2008). Yet alliances and cooperation may also imply the ‘co-optation’ of critics into the decision-making of business if stakeholders participate only symbolically in decision-making without exerting any actual power. This chapter suggests a ‘political coalition’ perspective on collaborative relationships between business and stakeholders, particularly social movement organizations (SMOs). Through conceptualizing the relationship between business and society from the perspective of a coalition view of the firm, it aims to specify facilitating or inhibiting conditions for stakeholder influence. To the extent that interests within and outside the corporation are pluralistic, a complete co-optation of stakeholders is less likely. Once again, I will use the case of the oil multinational Royal Dutch/Shell as a reference to examine the relationship between stakeholder influence and the distribution of interests within and outside the corporation....

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