Saturday, December 26, 2015

Corporate Activism: Freedom of Association?

An interesting dilemma.  On the one hand, there is the famous Friedman thesis, that corporations need not, and perhaps should not, engage in "civic duty" actions.

If you think that's wrong, then you in effect enable corporations to act on their own social agendas.  Which gives you the Koch Foundation.  I happen to admire the Koch Foundation, but many of my colleagues BOTH say Friedman is wrong and yet CGKF should be prevented from having any say in social activity.  You gots to PICK, folks.  Those are the choices.

Radical Repertoires: The Incidence and Impact of Corporate-Sponsored Social Activism

Mary-Hunter McDonnell
Organization Science, forthcoming

Abstract: This article explores when and why firms participate in overt corporate-sponsored social activism. To shed light on this question, I empirically explore the emergence and implications of a new strategic phenomenon in nonmarket strategy - the corporate-sponsored boycott - in which firms voluntarily cooperate with contentious social movement organizations to sponsor boycotts that protest the contested social practices of other companies or entities at higher orders of market organization, such as industries, transnational regulators, or states. Using a longitudinal database that tracks the social movement challenges faced by 300 large companies between 1993 and 2007, I provide evidence that overt corporate-sponsored activism is used by companies that are chronically targeted and losing ground to activists, especially when those companies are facing a reputational deficit. Furthermore, I find that participation in overt corporate-sponsored activism is associated with significant decreases in the number of activist challenges targeting a firm in the future, suggesting that the tactic may effectively defend a firm from contentious threat by allowing firms to co-opt allies within the activist population. I discuss implications of these findings for social movement research, nonmarket strategy, and the study of corporate social responsibility.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?