کاهش فقر به عنوان استراتژی کسب و کار؟ارزیابی تعهدات از جبهه دوم شرکت های چند ملیتی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|12365||2006||13 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : World Development, Volume 34, Issue 5, May 2006, Pages 789–801
In the debate on how to combat poverty, the positive role of MNCs is frequently mentioned nowadays, although doubts and criticism remain. Facing this societal debate, MNCs feel the pressure to formulate a position. This paper analyzes MNCs’ policies on their poverty-alleviating potential. “Frontrunner” MNCs turn out not to be very outspoken, especially not on those issues that have the largest potential to help alleviate poverty. Placed in the context of other MNCs’ behavior, a sector-coordinated morality seems important, which means that a meso approach to poverty alleviation needs to complement the current global (macro) and individual company (micro) focus.
In the international discussion on how to combat poverty, the potential contribution of companies is frequently mentioned nowadays by a number of international organizations, NGOs, and business associations. The Millennium Development Goals, which include the objective to halve income poverty by 2015, refers to the development of a “global partnership for development,” in which there is a role for companies. The UN Commission on the Private Sector and Development, which specifically looked into how this potential could be realized, underlined the importance of Multinational Corporations (MNCs), although its main focus was on local businesses (UNDP, 2004). The contribution of MNCs is also recognized in the growing number of partnerships, in which expertise and knowledge, usually through best practices, are transferred. Such cooperation takes place in different forms and arrangements, with governmental, non-governmental, and/or private participants. While criticism of the negative impact of MNCs continues to be heard (e.g., Hertz, 2001, Klein, 2002 and Stiglitz, 2002), most policy attention tends to be drawn to their (potential) added value in alleviating poverty. From their part, MNCs and their business associations increasingly emphasize the business opportunities of helping the poor. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development published a field guide resulting from its “Sustainable Livelihoods Project” (WBCSD, 2004). The description of almost 20 cases served to underline the fact that “doing business with the poor” could help MNCs to reach a so far largely untapped market of four billion potential customers. This is thus not just philanthropy, but a corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy that also makes economic sense and can give companies active in this way a competitive edge (cf., Prahalad & Hart, 2002). Such a perspective posits that MNCs can realize this by focusing on activities related to their core competencies and unique resources and capabilities (see, Barney, 1991 and Hamel and Prahalad, 1990), utilizing local capabilities and knowledge about markets, production, and distribution, and external expertise through partnerships. MNCs might then “do good” in both an economic and a societal sense at the same time, thus addressing criticisms that companies need to concentrate on profit maximization and not be distracted from that objective (Henderson, 2001 and Whetten et al., 2002). While the potential and opportunities of MNCs in relation to poverty alleviation are receiving considerable attention, the exact components for fulfilling such a role, in the context of international efforts to delineate poverty and the contribution of MNCs in this regard, have hardly been addressed—let alone that their actual policies have been evaluated in this way. As an exploratory contribution, this paper develops a framework to analyze MNC policies, using the poverty issues outlined by international organizations. It subsequently examines to what extent MNCs that present themselves as frontrunners address the different elements in their policy statements. On the basis of these results, policy options for involving MNCs in poverty alleviation are also discussed, as part of an evaluation of their strategic position vis-à-vis other MNCs. In the first section, this broader background of MNCs and poverty—sometimes placed in the context of CSR—will be indicated briefly.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The analysis of the adopted CSR strategies of different MNCs justifies the conclusion that they are overall not (yet) very outspoken on poverty alleviation. Some companies such as Unilever and Shell are more involved than others, but, in general, only a few issues are addressed. Content issues are included more often than context issues, while the latter have the largest potential to help eradicate poverty. Sustainable solutions can only be reached by offering poor people “tools” (know-how, technology, resources) to escape the poverty trap by themselves. MNCs do not yet reach their full potential in offering these tools to the poor. If issues such as dynamic comparative advantage and monitoring are not addressed, views that MNCs are uninterested in long-term development—and/or abuse their political and economic power—can less easily be counteracted. The question that needs to be posed is why not (all) MNCs show active policies regarding poverty alleviation. If MNCs in practice act as “free riders,” then there is little hope that they will ever truly be a “solution” for poverty. Only if MNCs themselves are actively involved, will they be able to develop their full (potential) role as poverty alleviators. Looking at the ICC showcase companies, some might, on the basis of the analysis in this paper, be labeled as “free riders,” others as “suckers.” There is no real evidence for conditional morality or prisoner’s dilemmas amongst the world’s (self-proclaimed) best practice companies. A sector perspective, however, suggests a different picture. MNCs in the garment industry show a high level of resemblance as far as their codes of conduct are concerned. This also applies to a large extent to the food processing sector. Unilever, Nestlé, and Danone conform with a high number of issues from the poverty evaluation framework. Similarity can be observed in other cases as well. The two automobile companies, Fiat and Volkswagen, for example, focus on environmental themes instead of poverty alleviation. The pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb, shape their social conduct through corporate philanthropy. Basu’s conditional morality theory indicates an explanation for this “sector-coordinated morality.” MNCs appear only willing to state active commitment if others in their sector do as well. It might be suggested that MNCs fear that, because of their involvement in poverty alleviation, they might lose out to others that do not have a strong policy (and/or that claim to be active but fail to enforce it). This argument seems to be supported by the exploratory analysis of different sectors. Unilever, Nestlé, and Danone all include a high number of “poverty issues.” While the exact contents of the codes differ, the general guidelines followed by these MNCs show similarities. BP and Shell have content issues in their codes of conduct as well as a relatively high number of context issues. Another major oil MNC, Exxon Mobil, also turned out to include similar issues. The likelihood of compliance seems to remain fairly limited; however, monitoring is lacking in most cases (Shell is the exception here, however; see Table 3), which also makes it difficult to find out what has been done. It is possible that the reason why these sectors pay attention to a relatively high number of poverty-related issues may be due to their exposure to public scrutiny and related reputational risks. The oil industry (and Shell in particular) has been under attack for social (and environmental) issues, most notably in developing countries where they explore and exploit oil fields. Unilever and other international food processing companies are particularly sensitive to consumer perceptions because of their product portfolios. Moreover, many of the least developed countries depend, for their income, on the exports of a few agricultural products that serve as inputs for the multinational food industry. Pressure from civil society puts a “floor” (a minimum level that is expected) on CSR in a sector. At the same time, competitors—other MNCs in this sector—can put a “ceiling” on CSR when it comes to being involved in alleviating poverty. MNCs might not be willing to go beyond this maximum level unless competitors do, or if they are forced by very strong pressure from civil society (usually non-governmental organizations). Applied to, for example, the automobile industry, where Fiat and Volkswagen emphasize the environmental aspects of CSR (as does Ford), this can be linked to the fact that these MNCs’ products have been primarily charged for emissions (sometimes related to its contribution to “global warming”). This might explain their environmental focus—which in fact has set the floor for social conduct in this sector. The ceiling in this case is that none of the MNCs deals with poverty issues or has been forced to do so. Conditional morality has implications for actions/policies that try to involve MNCs in poverty alleviation. Individual MNCs are criticized by non-governmental organizations for not complying with international guidelines and declarations. Conditional morality raises the question of whether or not the focus should be on one, single MNC or on the whole sector with all its (large) MNCs. MNCs might ignore goals that are recognized by all as important because of the strategic (competitive) disadvantage associated with pro-active behavior. The problem thus seems to resolve itself in particular on a meso (sector) level, not on the micro (MNC) level. It must be noted that much of the poverty discussion currently focuses on the macro level. A way forward in this regard might therefore be to not approach single, individual (often high profile) MNCs, as some NGOs and international organizations tend to do, but to create an enabling environment that facilitates dialogue and subsequent action at the sector level. To realize this, a “community morality” seems necessary, where the community comprises the (large) MNCs in one sector. The floor and ceiling have to be set for and by every sector. Even though poverty is a global problem and general guidelines can be very beneficial as a “model” to set out the general direction (such as the Millennium Development Goals), MNCs can be held back by sector (meso) issues and dynamics. Keeping the dialogue at the global level, and treating all MNCs from different sectors in the same way (as tried, e.g., in the United Nations’ Global Compact efforts), focusing on compliance with one and the same standard, will (and does) not work. Different sectors face different problems and are at different stages when it comes to alleviating poverty. International organizations might want to pursue the implications of these preliminary findings for their approaches to address poverty. The framework presented here could also serve as input for better monitoring and evaluation of MNCs’ activities. MNCs, in turn, can use the content and particularly context issues identified in this paper to design policies and monitoring systems, and set up and fine-tune what they do, and focus their efforts to particular aspects of development and poverty alleviation. Having underlined the significance of the meso level, it is nevertheless important to point at individual company differences, at the micro level, as well. Some factors that seem to shape the inclination of MNCs to show commitment to poverty issues have already been noted above, particularly size and product familiarity for large groups of consumers, and their readiness to put societal pressure on companies. Next, the domestic origins, the home-country institutional context, of MNCs still seem to play a role, suggesting a greater tendency of European MNCs to pro-actively approach poverty, in comparison to US and Asian companies. This is, however, an area that needs further investigation. In addition, the international spread of MNCs plays an important role. The case of, for example, Kraft suggests that those MNCs with considerable activity (sales, but particularly production and sourcing) in both developed and developing countries are most prone to being involved in the development of poverty-alleviating policies. It must also be noted that, although MNCs usually have one corporate code of conduct that also applies to their subsidiaries, the actual activities may differ for the countries in which they have locations. These company-specific aspects deserve attention in follow-up research, in which the inclusion of larger sets of MNCs would be helpful to arrive at a more meaningful sample for analysis. Additional studies can also be used to assess the validity and usefulness of the evaluation framework developed for the purpose of this paper, which was based on documents from some international organizations. A more extensive evaluation of different policies, possibly also covering non-governmental organizations—could be valuable in this regard. In addition, although statements and policies of particularly large and visible MNCs can be seen as proxies for actual behavior, follow-up research that focuses on their true impacts is definitely required. This is all the more justified in view of the powerful position of MNCs, and the importance attached to their activities in helping (or hindering) development. Such studies might help to shed further light on the results of the current exploratory study, which has underlined the importance of sector peculiarities and meso considerations in policy development for poverty alleviation that involves MNCs.