Transnational Activism and Corporate Accountability
Chapter 7: Conflicts and Coalitions
7. Conflicts and coalitions 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...
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