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The role of multinational corporations in UK sustainable development policy

By Louise Alexandra Ellis


In a context of globalisation and complex governance systems, the power of multinational corporations (MNCs), and subsequently their role in sustainable development is being questioned. This thesis will enter this debate by investigating the role of MNCs in UK sustainable development policy. Specifically, focus has been\ud placed on the production of the UK National Sustainable Development Strategy(NSDS), 'Securing Hie future'. In order to undertake this investigation in a systematic and robust way an original evaluation framework, the Actor Influence Framework, has been designed, developed and tested within this thesis. The AIF has drawn together insights from a wide-ranging debate surrounding power and influence, marrying the dimensions of power with those relating to deliberation and discourse. The AIF has been used within a multi-method approach consisting of; interviews, non-participant observation and document review, which was located within a research framework which has been informed by the social constructivist and interpretist traditions.\ud \ud This thesis has identified MNCs' influence on UK sustainable development policymaking, and one of the main findings is that MNCs do play a role in the decisionmaking\ud process; however, this is largely a tacit one, for example through setting the policy agenda. Importantly, in the case of the UK NSDS, MNCs had relatively little direct participation, for instance through taking part in consultation,i n the formal production of the NSDS,and moreover considered it to be an unimportant element of\ud UK policy. This also raises the question of whether participation in fact equates to influence. The second main finding of this thesis is that the move to more open,\ud transparent decision-making which has occurred within sustainable development decision-making has in fact led to a displacement effect, with this thesis showing that\ud there is a return, by MNCS, to old style 'back roorn' informal discussions. The third main finding has been that, through the development and application of the AIF, the\ud proposition that a synthesis approach to analysis was required was correct. Finally, this thesis will argue that through the tacit power held by MNCs, they have gained a\ud 'monopoly of legitimacy' within the decision-making process, with the dominant policy discourse being one which is corporate-centric. This situation means that the\ud concept of sustainable development in its search for environmental, social and economic equity has been tamed and therefore does not challenge the status quo.\ud Subsequently, MNCs do not need to act directly to affect policy in this area

Publisher: School of Earth and Environment (Leeds)
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

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