How to make sense of MNCS lobbying practices from a political perspective

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As being, amongst others, creators of foreign direct investment, multinational corporations are key participants in our economy. Conducting business internationally, these corporations engage with various political institutions. They apply lobbying practices, for example, to establish access to political institutions and to influence laws and decision-making. Lobbying can take many forms and can be perceived differently by members of political parties. Political party members make sense of lobbying as an important activity for the functioning of democracy. With regard to lobbying, the level of ethics regarding the lobbying process is key to what political party members consider to be (un)acceptable. During this research, semi-structured interviews were held with members of various political parties, in order to determine the sensemaking by political party members regarding multinationals’ lobbying practices. The findings of this research present five main aspects within (ethical) sensemaking, namely integrity, knowledge transfer, interest representation, power & influence, and transparency. To the respondents, integrity needs to be an integral and essential part (the morality of) the lobbying process and of politicians as well. Knowledge transfer forms an important part of the lobbying process, whereas MNCs - with their expertise - can provide politicians with specific and valuable information. Lobbying is also viewed as (a form of) interest representation. In this regard, the morality of lobbying (highly) depends on whether the lobbying is based on public or self-interest. According to the respondents, the acceptance of lobbying processes also depends on how the MNCs use their power and influence - and the extent of it. (The right amount and form of) transparency can make the lobbying practice (more likely to be) ethical. Lastly, (an adaptation of) laws, regulations and the political system (can) play an important part in the (likelihood of) morality. Abovementioned aspects influence the sensemaking process of political party members regarding MNCs lobbying activities and (can) determine, both separately and collectively, whether a political party member perceives the lobbying practice as being ethical or unethical - and consequently as (un)acceptable.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen