The Geography of NGO Activism against Multinational Corporations

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Sophie HATTE & Pamina KOENIG


To what extent do Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) monitor global value chains? While NGOs regu- larly denounce the behavior of multinational corporations throughout the world, their motivations for choosing campaign targets remain largely unknown. Using a new dataset on activists’ campaigns toward multinational firms, we estimate a triadic gravity equation for campaigns, involving the NGO, firm, and action countries. Our results point to a strong proximity bias in NGO activity: Distance, national borders, and lack of a common language all contribute to impede the intensity of campaigns. We estimate the distance elasticity of campaigns to be −0.2 and further document that NGOs strongly bias their actions toward home firms or foreign firms with home actions. A domestic firm is 3.45 times more likely to be attacked than a foreign one. Foreign firms headquartered in common language countries draw 1.63 times more campaigns. Overall, campaigns seem to be designed so as to include at least one element of proximity drawing the attention of consumers. This pat- tern questions the role of NGOs in the monitoring of multinational production operated in remote, unfamiliar locations.

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