Ethics & International Affairs Volume 16.1 (Spring 2002): Articles: NGO Strategies for Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility [Abstract]

May 2, 2002

This article describes and evaluates the different strategies that have been employed by international human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in attempting to influence the behavior of multinational corporations (MNCs). Within the NGO world, there is a basic divide on tactics for dealing with corporations: Engagers try to draw corporations into dialogue in order to persuade them by means of ethical and prudential arguments to adopt voluntary codes of conduct, while confronters believe that corporations will act only when their financial interests are threatened, and therefore take a more adversarial stance toward them. Confrontational NGOs tend to employ moral stigmatization, or "naming and shaming," as their primary tactic, while NGOs that favor engagement offer dialogue and limited forms of cooperation with willing MNCs.

The article explains the evolving relationship between NGOs and MNCs in relation to human rights issues and defines eight strategies along the engagement/confrontation spectrum used by NGOs in their dealings with MNCs. The potential benefits and risks of various forms of engagement between NGOs and MNCs are analyzed and it is argued that the dynamic created by NGOs pursuing these different strategies can be productive in moving some companies to embrace their social responsibilities. Yet, in order for these changes to be sustainable, national governments will need to enact enforceable international legal standards for corporate social accountability.

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