I. fail at gaining support from corporates

I.   Civil
society campaigning is a key player in shaping business practices

 If
well-organized, civil society campaigning appears to be the most effective way
for consumers to promote responsible corporate behaviour, by directly reaching firms
but also, or indirectly through firm’s intermediaries.

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The more organized, the more effective

Corporate
Social Responsibility is best represented in a “collective engagement” of civil
society actors (May). It is crucial to recognize the
variety of forms members of the civil society take on, (World
Economic Forum) as this will determine their effectiveness in
promoting sustainable business practices. The civil society literature
distinguishes two major forms of voluntary associations: Social Movements and
NGO’s. Social movements are unorganized groups but their influence is still
important in global issues. For example, labour activists and workers united
their power against one of the world’s most powerful brands, Nike. After
leading a campaign against their poor labour practices, they succeeded to force
Nike to improve their ethical game.5(Birch)
However, social movements fail at gaining support from corporates and
society, as their campaigning strategies may come across as extreme and radical
(reference). Therefore, NGO’s appear to be the most
effective form of civil society groupings as they are organized structures, registered
entities,  but also considered as the most
trusted institution globally. On the level
of environmental and sustainable governance, NGOs are the key players and
therefore comprise the main focus of this essay.

 

The diverse strategies of the civil society to
influence firms directly

Civil society can collectively express a grievance by
signing petitions. Living in the Golden age of the Internet takes
civil society players’ participation to new levels: the e-participation (Sreejith, Transforming Gov). However, the defining
activity of campaigning voluntary group is organising protests and demonstrations. Can
truly help citizens to make their disapproval heard.  object lesson in
how giant corporations can be brought to account by ordinary consumers. Another strategy used by the civil
society is partnering with corporate actors.

The figure below
illustrates what the political activist Jim Wallis means by saying that “Civil society is making other sectors work,
leveraging their capabilities and enabling solutions”.  (Jim Wallis,
Sojourners National Christian Organization) By collaborating directly with them, NGO’s will have the power to significantly
influence the long-term sustainability of their business.

(Baur and Schmitz)

 

Another
strategy to promote sustainability: reach intermediaries (indirectly influence
firms)

Aid. Activists did not see this association as a collaboration but rather
as an “institutional incompability” between Nestlé and the NGO. Therefore, to
regain the trust of citizen in order to recover their degree of effectiveness,
it is crucial for NGO’S to not cross the boundary between “Critical
cooperation” and “Co-optation”, which can appear as blurry. Aid. Activists did
not see this association as a collaboration but rather as an “institutional incompability”
between Nestlé and the NGO.

 

 

II.  
Constraints
preventing civil society campaigning from realizing its full potential and its
consequences

 

Constraints from the NGO’s perspectives

The first challenge limiting the of civil society are the
different sources and levels of funding for civil society stakeholders.

Many NGO Managers face a lack of funds, that may be due to insufficient
resource mobilization skills (Viravaidya and Haysssen)6. Moreover, limited financial resources can lead to another
negative consequence: the increase of NGO’s vulnerability for corporate
sponsoring, which then might induce co-optation. (Warwick Econ
Forum) This threat leads to the second
challenge: NGO Trust Crisis. According to the most recent Edelman Trust
Barometer, in 2017, most participants of the study affirmed not believing
anymore in all four governance institution (Edelman,
2017). The contrast with the situation
in 2012 is not surprising since/as NGO’s are increasingly the target of criticism for their close association
with corporations, that compromises NGO’s autonomy and transparency. This was
the case of the general Director of Nestlé who was highly criticized for
joining the Executive Board of the NGO Swiss Interchurch Aid. Activists did not
see this association as a collaboration but rather as an “institutional incompability”
between Nestlé and the NGO. Therefore, to regain the trust of citizen in order
to recover their degree of effectiveness, it is crucial for NGO’S to not cross
the boundary between “Critical cooperation” and “Co-optation”, which can appear
as blurry.

 

Constraints from hosting countries’ perspectives

     The
influence of civil society groupings also depends on the hosting country and
its political, social, and legal environment. Accordingly, the level of
uncertainty of these driving forces will determine the level of effectiveness.

The World Economic Forum ranks political situation and stability as the most
critical driving factor that is the most uncertain for the coming years. (reference???) Since geopolitical stability “enables
the smooth movement of goods, people and ideas”, geopolitical conflict will
appear as a significant obstacle to Ngo and other civil society groups actions.

Campaigning in such countries will be threatened by security concerns. (reference) Other factors need to be considered such as the rules and regulations
in hosting countries. For instance, China adopted a new controversial law in
June 2017 which impact had profoundly impacted firms. Illustrating the “Communist
Party’s increasing suspicion of hostile Western influences”, the law exposed
foreign NGO’s to close governement scrunity, with a more restricted reporting
and registration system. As a direct consequence, some NGO’S decided to freeze
all their activities there while others decided to change their country
location. (Gan)

 

How many corporation actually altered their
business practices? Some disappointing campaigning results

Finally, civil society campaigning is not fully
efficient in the sense that it does not always manage to completely alter
corporate behaviours. Examining the managerial responses to activist
stakeholders reveals answers from the firm is not always positive. The
literature has identified four major managerial strategies, with among them two
negatives ones: “Wage a Fight” and “Wait”. In the Wage a Fight strategy,
managers defy and contest activits’ demands and rather than entering with a
dialogue with them, prefer to stick to the path they have chosen in terms of
business practices (Lawrence, Managing disputes). Now,
considering the busineses practices NGO believe to have successfully altered:
some of them are fake changes. Corporations might indeed make false Corporate
Social Responsibility promises in order to avoid NGO’s and other voluntary
associations pressure. The most relevant example would be the Volkswagen
Emission scandal in 2015. It is alarming to see how one of the giants in the automotive
industry was promoting in high-profile marketing campaigns its supposedly
environmentally friendly cars while poisoning the planet with its defeat
software. (Enrique Dans) This example illustrates
how CSR business practices changes can be superfluous.

 

Considering these
several limits, the degree of effectiveness of civil society campaigning is not
as great as expected. Rather than
altering business practices, is civil society only influencing them? Combining
these group-based strategies with ethical actions made on a local level could be a solution
to minimize the negative consequences on effectiveness previously stated.

 

III.   The
need of ethical consumption on an individual level to reach full effectiveness

 

A
new type of consumer has arisen, the ethical consumer

How can consumers have an
impact on firms and their business practices, on a local level?  Over the past decades, civil society
campaigning has raised more and more awareness among consumers about the
negative impacts of their consumption. Passive
and individual consumers have become today ethically minded consumers. (CSR: how strong). For this reason, civil society
campaigns try to encourage them to spread this responsible behaviour by simply “voting
with their dollars”. Therefore, purchase refusal, also known as boycotts, is a
first way to alter business behaviour. Although being very popular, the lack of
tools to measure effectively its impact stressed
the need of/for other techniques. (assessing ngos) Thus,
it may also take the form of positive ethical consumerism, called “buycotts”.

Itis nowadays considered as a more effective way to promote sustainable
business practices for its positive rewarding system(Consumer as drivers). Another
strategy of ethical purchasing is adopting specific ethical diet choices: new trends have emerged
such as eating organically produce food, vegetarianism and veganism. This was
follow by big food companies such as Whole Food starting to sell free range
eggs, adding new vegan options to their menus or even opening new vegetarian
branches, like Prêt à Manger did. These changes for more sustainable business
models can be explained by the concept of consumer sovereignty; consumers now dictate the terms, and knowing that firms are consequently
always seeking to meet customers needs, this movement toward ethical food has
attracted firms interest. (Polonsky, 1995).

 

The
attitude-behaviour gap, a phenomenon reflecting limits of this ethical consumption.

Being concerned about ethical issues do not
necessarily translate into ethical consumerism. This phenomenon has been identified by Auger and
Devinney (2007) as the attitude-behaviour
gap: there is indeed a gap between
initial ethical purchases intentions of consumers and actual buying behavior at
the point of purchases. Therefore, it is important to identify the reasons of
this consumer behaviour’s deviation to improve in the future the effectiveness
of ethical consumption. First of all, the degree of effectiveness of ethical
consumption depends of the industry. According to the most recent Ethical Consumer
Market report, ethical clothing retailers have suffered of a 12% decline in
price. (reference) In conclusion, markets,
such as the fashion market, where industries compete in an escalating price war
are therefore not favorable to ethical products. However, having to pay for a
high price premium is not the only purchase barriers. For the food market, the British
Food Journal identified the lack of availability of organic products as a first
drawback for convenience-oriented consumers as well as a lack of information
transparency that remains today insufficient.

 

Mini
conclusion: society might have gained power over the past few years, but it will
only be recognized as an effective form of governance over firms when it will
have succeeded to change (not only influence) the intentions of each consumer.

 

 

Conclusion

      The
answer to this question lies in the understanding of the word promoting:
what is meant by the word “promoting” mean? Only influencing firms in order to
adopt more sustainable practices or profoundly altering their business model? If
promoting and influencing share the same meaning: civil society campaigning and
ethical consumption are considered as two effective ways of promoting. However,
if it is understood as profoundly altering business practices: the degree of
effectiveness of civil society campaigning and ethical consumption is much
smaller. Moisés Naím perfectly captures the essence of
this dilemma and its nuances, by writing in The End of Power: “To truly revolutionize how things are done, it’s not
enough to change a policy or shift leadership to a new regime. You must change
the beliefs that lead to
actions”
In other words, civil
society might have gained power over the past few years, but it will only be recognized
as an effective form of governance over firms when it will have succeeded to
change (not only influence) the intentions of each consumer.