Global Corporations and Human Well-Being
Social Conscience and the Bottom Line
The world’s economy is increasingly organized through privately-run corporations with footholds in several nations. These corporations have the clout to play a widening role in impacting health, education and broad well-being in countries around the world. Their influence can extend to other firms, local governments, activist NGOs and even nations.
The Global Corporations (Globalcorp) project studied these multinational entities and their tendency to get involved (or not get involved) in social initiatives in the countries where they do business. By looking at specific cases – HIV/ AIDS and climate change – the group was able to better understand how, why and to what effect corporations invest in the social good.
CARSS assembled a working group that included economists, sociologists, political scientists, psychologists, environmentalists and specialists in law, ethics and public policy. In addition to building collaborations between scholars who might have otherwise remained siloed on campus, the group developed working relationships with representatives from global corporations like Pfizer and Ford Motor Company.
“CARSS was a catalyst for thinking big about social problems in new ways, and making the most of the resources at the University of Michigan,” said sociology professor Gerald Davis, one of the project’s founders and core leaders. “It gave us the opportunity to collaborate with people from really different disciplinary backgrounds and to try to solve common problems.”
The project helped bring two scholars to the Michigan faculty—Thomas Lyon and Andrew Hoffman, who now lead a business-oriented climate change research program as director and associate director, respectively, of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise.
Lyon and Hoffman later convened a major climate change forum “Reframing the Climate Change Debate: Jobs, Trade, Security and a Revised Research Agenda” in 2005. It made room for conflicting perspectives and asked questions aimed at stirring the pot.
- What do corporations stand to gain or loose from being proactive about global warming?
- What’s our evidence, and where does it come from?
- Why do governments and corporations fall into certain patterns of action?
- What knowledge is missing, and how do we fill those gaps?
The event became a springboard for collaborative research projects and retooling of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program. And through the Erb Institute, Lyon and Hoffman continue the conversations started by the Globalcorp project.