The Power of Activism: Assessing the Impact of NGOs on Global Business

by Debora Spar, Lane La Mure



Recent decades have witnessed the proliferation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the emergence of activism across a wide variety of issue areas. On topics ranging from human rights to labor conditions, NGOs and activists represent an increasingly important constituency in a firm's non-market environment. This article explores the different ways in which firms manage NGO pressure, noting instances of preemption, capitulation, and resistance. The article considers three case studies-Unocal, Nike, and Novartis-and evaluates a series of hypotheses about the economic and non-economic factors that drive variation in firms' responses to NGO activism.

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