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学期论文:问题解决方案的一部分

时间:2016-01-17 16:46来源:www.ukassignment.org 作者:留学生作业 点击:

介绍

这个学期论文侧重于以下主题:

跨国公司——部分问题或部分解决方案?

探索这个主题,我将主要在全球政治经济与跨国公司的兴起,关注驱动力背后的的私有化规范,最重要的问题是企业行为准则的实现。

为了做到这一点,本文的第一部分将重点发展事业需要规范全球政治经济的私有化,简要概述了历史和跨国公司的兴起和全球跨国公司所造成的问题。接下来,本文将进一步阐述在处理这些问题时国家面临的困难,紧随其后的是大纲对企业行为准则旨在探索为什么,如果,行为准则提供了一个可能的解决这些问题。最后,本文提供了一个现状的结论。

跨国公司

部分问题或解决方案的一部分?

跨国合作(跨国公司)的起源可以追溯到时间的帝国主义主要有西欧国家,如英国、荷兰和法国开始殖民海外理由寻求新的资源使用他们自己的利益。这个项目通过几个世纪来开发,随着19世纪资本主义的崛起,获得更多的形象。保护和扩大市场的重要性越来越大,这一趋势寻求边境寻找替代机会尤其是自然资源如石油也增加了。

介绍——Introduction

This term paper focuses on the following subject:

Transnational companies - part of the problem or part of the solution?

Exploring this topic, I will mainly focus on driving forces behind the privatisation of norms in the global political economy in relation to the rise of TNCs and the most crucial issues in the implementation of codes of corporate conduct.

In order to do this, the first part of this paper will focus on the developments that cause the need for the privatisation of norms in the global political economy, giving a brief overview on the history and rise of TNCs and the global problems caused by TNCs. Next, the paper will further elaborate on the difficulties nation states face when dealing with these problems, followed by an outline on corporate codes of conduct which aims to explore why, how and if, codes of conduct may offer a possible solution to these issues. Finally, the paper provides a conclusion of the current situation.

跨国公司——Transnational Companies

部分问题或解决方案的一部分?——Part Of The Problem Or Part Of The Solution?

The origins of Transnational Cooperations (TNCs) can be traced back to the time of imperialism when mostly Western European countries, such as Great Britain, The Netherlands and France started to colonize overseas grounds in seek of new resources to use for their own benefit. This initiative developed itself through centuries to come, obtaining more shape with the rise of capitalism in the 19th century. The importance of protecting and expanding markets became bigger and the trend to seek across the border for alternative opportunities in search for especially natural resources such as oil also increased. After the Second World War foreign investment augmented heavily with which TNCs' role in the global economy first saw a size that should definitely be taken into account.

Over the last few decades, riding on the further development of globalisation, Transnational Corporations have gained a lot of power in globalized world. With the liberalisation of international markets, through international trade organisations, the rise of regional bodies (EU) and the opening up of new areas as such as Central and Eastern Europe, TNCs obtained a bigger scope for their businesses and saw their powers increasing. Especially in relation to nation states, as countries had to sacrifice some of their own sovereignty to enhance trade.

Through further (international) mergers and acquisitions, TNCs have been growing very rapidly on a global base, becoming one of the richest and most dominant divisions of the globalized world and therefore being able to influence their environment to a large extent.

A Transnational Corporation nowadays can be defined as a profit making cooperation marked by two basic characteristics:

1) it engages in enough business activities -- including sales, distribution, extraction, manufacturing, and research and development -- outside the country of origin so that it is dependent financially on operations in two or more countries;

2) its management decisions are made based on regional or global alternatives. (Greer, Kavaljit; 2000)

With reference to the first part of above definitions, the following can be said about the mode of operation of TNCs; TNC mostly operate as parent companies, having it's home base in the TNC's country of origin, exercising an authoritative, controlling a subsidiary in another country either directly (if it is private) or by owning some or all of the shares (if it is public). It mostly outsources activities to an outside supplier to improve its performance. It can either do this at a foreign location which is called off shoring, or at a domestic location, called inn shoring. Subsidiaries can have a different name than the original parent company. The style of relationships between parent and subsidiary companies differs among TNCs, creating an elaborate network of various interrelated enterprises, each having their own different interests in the particular industry.

Although TNCs do stimulate the flow of investment, technology, profits etc. and through this have raised economic growth and employment rates, they are mostly not very concerned with the wellbeing of the citizens of the countries in which their subsidiaries operate, causing problems with regard to human/labour rights, environment conditions and even government corruption.

The increased power of TNCs brought about some serious wide reaching problems in different segments of the modern globalized world. TNCs are in frequent cases far richer and more powerful than national governments and are therefore able to dominate economies and influence policymaking, having effect on the daily lives of many others. According to publications of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (2004), TNCs economic power compares to that of countries (United Nations conference of trade and development, 2004; 4).

Additionally, because of globalisation; the liberalisation of trade policies, the deregulation of economies and privatisation of enterprises, national governments at the same time have much less control over what goes on in their own territory or what their own multinationals do elsewhere and they no longer have the resources they had in the past to solve these problems.

In the economic field, TNCs have a tendency to dominate industries, this because of their large transnational network of subsidiaries (either private or public). Taking advantage of this, an often seen phenomenon here is intra-company trade, which basically comes down to a modern form of oligopoly. Intra-company relates to transactions between subsidiaries that are part of the same parent companies. This system can be harmful as it uses a technique known as "transfer pricing".

The TNCs set prices for transfers of goods, services, technology, and loans between their worldwide affiliates which diverge a great deal from the prices which other firms would have had to pay. This way a TNC maximises its own profits and avoids national laws as the other company is related to the parent company and thus part of the same organisational structure. Also, because the TNC has a worldwide network of subsidiaries, who, as mentioned before, are not always using the same name as the parent enterprise, it can shift funds around the world without any real taxation of it. Furthermore, TNCs can fluctuate the prices in relation to the local tax rates of a particular country, creating their own profitable environment. To give an idea of the scale of this issue, the sums involved in transfer mispricing would be more than enough to meet the extra US$40-60 billion the World Bank estimates poor countries will need annually to meet the millennium development goals (Christian Aid, 2008). The ability of TNCs to set prices in above mentioned ways leaves national governments unable to control their own markets.

Moreover, especially poor countries are often dependant on TNCs for investment in their economy. TNCs are regarded as an opportunity for economic growth, and developing countries are therefore eager to attract them. As indicated in the second part of the above given definitions; TNCs base their management decisions on the local rules. And if these local rules and circumstances are favourable to their business, a TNC will implement its business there. So unfortunately, as a result, this often comes down to the fact that these activities are being accepted and even business regulations and policies for labour, health, and the environment are loosened in favour of a TNC.

In the political field, corruption, in the form of bribes to influence policy and decisions making processes are not uncommon.

Although the power of TNCs has at first been underestimated, attempts to take measures to regulate the conduct of TNCs better have been taken over the years. Yet, one problem for nation states to fight these issues is that with rapid globalisation and the creation of big open markets, a gap has been created between the scope of reach of a national, international or regional organisations and decision made by supra national bodies, leaving a big play ground for TNCs in between. It is off course equally true that these combined forces of regional and international organisations are able to strengthen the position of governments by means of new laws, but wherever cooperation takes place, autonomy becomes a new issue too. Governments had to cooperate to create new policies, which could conflict with national law, not making the decision making procedure any easier, or faster. Despite the existence at the international level of treaties, agreements and conventions, there is no set of international rules to regulate business activities and their impact on society (United Nations conference of trade and development, 2004; 4).

But the biggest problem is, even though TNCs raise serious problems that need to be taken care of, constraint of their conduct is also undesirable as they are seen as positive instruments to promote growth. On the one hand, nation states wish to fight the situation, on the other hand they cannot as it will have a negative impact on their own economic well-being, creating a confusion of interests. Especially poor government can therefore choose to put profits before community interests by tolerating the behaviour of certain TNCs.

A “middle of the road” approach in managing this matter is the development of codes of conduct, an initiative first introduced by NGOs in the 1980's. These codes of conduct are regulations to be adopted by TNCs to improve the imbalanced power relation between corporations and nation states and to stimulate TNCs to take greater social responsibility for the consequences of their corporate behaviour. Codes of conduct can be seen as an expression of corporate social responsibility, but also as rule setting behaviour - attempts to help fill some of the existing international institutional voids (Kolk, van Tulder, 2005:1). They contain guidelines, recommendations and rules issued by entities within society (adopting body or actor) with the intent to affect the behaviour of (international) business entities (target) within society in order to enhance corporate responsibility. (Kolk, van Tulder, 2005: 3). Through the years a very diverse range of players have been involved in the development of codes of conduct. These include corporations, business associations, NGOs, labour unions, shareholders, investors, consumers, consultancy firms, governments, and international organizations. Broadly speaking, codes of conduct can be divided into five main types: specific company codes, association, multi-stakeholder codes, inter-governmental and international framework agreements (Singh K. 2007; 1-2).

As mentioned before, corporate codes of conduct were first introduced in the 1980's. Many nation states considered this initiative a promising initiative, eager to seek further support to implement it. It was clear that because of the huge extend of TNCs, national or higher level powers do not have enough strength to control TNCs, while supra national bodies are unable to lay down policies that fit regional needs to better regulate.

Although there was enough interest shown by governments from the developed world as well as the developing world, the biggest problem was to reach a common agreement on the function, content and potential sanctions against violation of these codes by TNCs, mainly because of different interests between the developed and developing world. This resulted in the fact that the codes became voluntary instead of mandatory.

Although national government were convinced in the 80's that enterprises and markets could regulate themselves, the reality turned out to be very different. When codes of conduct were first introduced TNCs showed little interest, but under pressure of big campaigns launched in developed countries, focussing on the overseas activities of well known brand names, the first TNCs stated to adopt these corporate codes of conduct, fearing damage to their image.

Only since the 1990's, TNCs themselves started to take initiatives, moving away from the emphasis on the thoughts of one single actor, something know as the “multi-stakeholder” approach (Utting, Jenkins and Alva Pino, 2002: 61). Multi-stakeholder codes address a vast range of issues and provide independent monitoring mechanisms and, therefore, are increasingly viewed as a credible alternative. They are set up as non-profit organizations consisting of coalitions of companies, labour unions, and NGOs that develop specific standards (Singh K. 2007; 1-2).

This change of approach was caused by a change of attitude on the stake-, share- and consumer side, which started to show more interest in the social and environmental impact of TNCs conduct and hereby putting these topics higher on the corporate agenda. This change of attitude caused a chain reaction of in the restructuring of approach across enterprises, continuing to industry levels and has created a certain vast standard of expectation, especially by the stake- and shareholders involved, which is positive progress.

Although this development sounds promising, one of the questions raised here is if this development of augmented adoption of corporate codes of conduct really implies an increased awareness of corporate social responsibility and actual improvement of corporate behaviour.

First, when it comes to the bottom line, codes of conduct are still not legally binding. This means that no cooperation can be hold legally responsible when violating them.

Secondly, the contents of codes of conduct can be questionable. Although the multi-stakeholder approach is the most frequently used way of implementing codes of conduct, there is now regulation that prescribes a TNC to use this approach. They still have the liberty to choose whatever code is convenient. Codes can therefore be very poor in their contents, not properly describing policies or even leaving out the most important issues. Furthermore, because of the fact that each TNC is free to choose its own codes of conduct, they vary very much among different industries, each promoting their own criteria and standards. This creates a confusing situation and makes it considerably easy for TNCs to still get away with certain practices.

Additionally the word of TNCs can be deceiving. Enterprises may not always have the right intentions when designing and adapting codes, but singly aim to promote and protect their image by misleading the public. They can even use it as a strategic tool to generate positive PR instead, while at the same time they go on as they have always done, only now with the false approval of the public by pretending to carry out corporate responsibility. What is written down on paper is frequently not carried out in practice. This while one of the key objectives of the multi-stakeholder initiatives has been to improve the quality of standard-setting, reporting, auditing, monitoring and verification procedures (Utting, Jenkins and Alva Pino, 2002: 82).

The lack of monitoring of the execution of corporate social responsibility can result in the fact that TNCs resume to actually implement codes of conduct. The problem here lies in the lack of transparency and verification which limits the effectiveness of its implementation. Most codes do not have a mechanism for accountability or follow-up (United Nations conference of trade and development, 2004; 6).

Above mention flaws in system of using codes of conduct to force TNCs to practice better social behaviour, result into the conclusion that codes of conduct in combination with the enhanced pressure on TNCs by new actors, do raise corporate social responsibility but however do only provide a part of the solution as their scope is not extensive enough. These are some crucial issues that have to be overcome in order to make it work in practice.

A possible solution could lie in the interference of national laws. When establishing a relationship between businesses codes of conduct can be included in the contract and hence making them binding. Also, governments could fight rogue TNCs by making it possible to take legal steps against enterprises which publish false codes of conduct under laws on misrepresentation. (United Nations conference of trade and development, 2004; 7) This can make TNCs vulnerable as when being caught publishing false statements, images are damaged and other actors such as consumers, stake- and shareholders may retreat as partners.

Another legislative measure could be the obligation for TNCs to become transparent to the public in terms of social matters. A good step of national governments is to require enterprises and subsidiaries located on their territory to provide statistical information on their workforce and its fluctuation, wages, health and safety, working conditions, training, labour relations, living conditions, and measures taken in favour of employment. France has made an excellent example in 2002 by requiring that all the biggest national and international enterprises located on their territories report on employee, community and environmental issues, and even more important, how corporations' subsidiaries respect the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) fundamental conventions and how corporations promote these conventions among their affiliates (United Nations conference of trade and development, 2004; 8).

The task of regulating TNCs remains a complex matter. Even though the attitude of civil society has changed, being able to put greater pressure on corporate behaviour and thus being able to change it for the positive up to a certain extent, corporate codes of conduct do not seems to be able to singly overcome the situation for now. Equally true however, great progress has been made by means of this system, considering that it was first seriously implemented in the 1990s. Therefore voluntary approaches definitely could be used as tools to regulate on corporate behaviour, however there is still a vital need for a strong, transparent and efficient supervisory framework to oversee the right implementation these policies. Even though coalitions of companies, labour unions, and NGOs are there to vouch for this framework, they do not posses the power to take any real measures. The framework could be found in the backing of national governments, which can make the use of corporate codes of conduct more effective by implementing them into the legal system.

This way, step by step, TNCs and national governments, combined with the efforts of NGOs, labour unions, and other civil society organizations, do have the ability form a strong and clear policy.

Claire Delahaije - Global Governance February 2010



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