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Influencing corporations through shareholder activism: the case of three NGO-led campaigns in the UK

Ivanova, Mila R. 2015. Influencing corporations through shareholder activism: the case of three NGO-led campaigns in the UK. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Modern day corporations are not only economically and politically powerful, but they also have a significant impact on society and the environment. Due to their relevance, once solely focused on government, non-governmental organisations are increasingly engaging in private politics and making corporations the targets of their campaigns. The recent economic crisis has highlighted the role of the financial market for changing corporate actions and, as a result, shareholder activism – a campaigning tactic which is comparatively new, has rapidly grown in popularity among the third sector community. The term can be defined as the use of ownership rights to actively shape corporate policy and behaviour. The research is based on three campaign case studies which provide a detailed exploration of how UK-based NGOs use various shareholder activist strategies to realise their campaign objectives: the campaign against Vedanta Resources‟ operations in India, the campaign against Shell‟s involvement in the Niger Delta, and the Tax Justice campaign targeting FTSE 100 companies. Based on the premise that companies should consider the interests of different stakeholders, the main aim is to explore the shareholder activist strategies used by NGOs, to determine their impact on the investor community and the targeted companies, and to examine what are the main challenges faced by campaigning organisations. The study adopts a multi-method qualitative approach encompassing participant observation, semi-structured interviews and document analysis. It draws on a wide range of literature to explain and build upon the findings – social science literature, but also social movement, pressure group and financial accounting literature. It has been discovered that shareholder activism can potentially be a very effective tactic and that NGOs‟ use of this strategy is on the rise – NGO share campaigns more than doubled in the period 2003-2013 compared to 1990-2002. One of the main conclusions is that NGOs are increasingly using business case arguments when engaging with companies and investors as this method enhances campaign effectiveness. Based on the case study findings, a theoretical model which attempts to explain the factors contributing to the overall impact of campaigns has been developed. The findings also have implications about the nature of corporate governance and the democratisation of business. Shareholder activism has been seen as a tool which democratises corporations through opening the door to private politics to a wider range of stakeholders such as citizens, pension savers, and voluntary organisations. In addition, the nature of a „successful‟ campaign has been reinvented and it has been suggested that the overall impact of an intervention should be regarded from a „delayed gratification‟ point of view and the symbolic outcomes of campaigns should not be discarded as irrelevant

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2017 16:50

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