Research assignment: global issues and your TNC

In this assignment, you will conduct research into one such issue connected to your company. 

The goal of the paper is 

a) to demonstrate how your TNC either affects or is affected by the issue

b) how other actors respond to the company and the issue (i.e. protests, government sanctions, etc.) 

c) how the company responds to the issue.

These kinds of issues include, but are definitely not limited to:

  • Labor
  • Environment
  • Cultural effects
  • Health
  • Crime and justice
  • Politics and power
  • War, violence, and terror
  • Gender relations
  • Race relations
  • Consumerism
  • International relations

Basic Requirements

  • A title
  • 5-7 pages double-spaced, standard formatting and margins (excluding maps, tables, images, figures, and bibliography)
  • Reference to at least 3 academic articles (place an asterisk or some other symbol in your bibliography next to your academic articles)
  • Complete in-text citations and a complete bibliography
  • An excellent paper will include at least one map.  you are encouraged to make a map showing either the location of TNC actions and impacts, or local responses.  For example, you could make a map showing places where workers’ deaths occurred, where protests against a company have taken place, or any number of things.

Suggested Format

I. Introduction

Give a brief overview of the issue and how your company influences or is influenced by the issue.

II. How your TNC influences the issues

Here you may choose to focus a) on a single event (i.e. the Bangladeshi factory collapse), an ongoing problem that is spread out across several locations (i.e. water contamination from rapid industrialization that your TNC is a participant in), or a combination of both.  Describe in detail the way your TNC contributes to the issue (in either a positive or negative way). 

III. Responses

What kinds of responses have the TNC’s activities generated?  Depending on the issue you are studying, this could include grassroots protests, community organizing, labor strikes, unionization drives.  Have any NGOs intervened (i.e. Greenpeace, Amnesty International)?  What about government actors, both local and multinational?  To what extent, if at all, did local responses generate broader movements, for example, by linking with other activists in other locations?  To what extent did different interest groups collaborate or disagree on responses to the company?

Important: Your paper does not have to focus on a single place or event. For example, if you wanted to research the impact of McDonald’s on local diet, you could use examples from India, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and France.  What is important, however, is that you link your different examples together somehow.

IV. The Company’s Response

How did the company respond to what you’ve described above?  Was the company forced to stop certain activities or alter its behavior somehow?  Or did the company pay a settlement but continue as before?  How significant were changes to the company, and how effective was public and governmental pressure on the company?  Did the company’s response apply universally, or did it make changes in some locations but not in others? Here it is important to be critical—don’t just take the company’s word for it that they have resolved all issues—dig a little deeper and try to find out if things have really changed.

V. Conclusion

Here, I strongly encourage you to “go big.”  What implications does the story you’ve told in this paper have for globalization as we’ve discussed it in this class?  Is it an isolated case or does it speak to general trends or patterns inherent to globalization as it has taken place in the last couple of decades?  Are current responses to the issue adequate, or is more concerted or organized action required?  What types of responses that are not being tried may be necessary?

Sample Outline

Title: Is there an App for That? Apple Corp. and Worker Suicides in China

I. Introduction

Specific issue: Although the poor working conditions and mistreatment of labor in Chinese factories is well-known in the West, consumption of Apple products appears unaffected.  Broader issues: does offshoring production really ‘develop’ host countries?  Are low-wage factory jobs overseas actually beneficial?  What responsibility do consumers have for the conditions under which their products were made?

II. Apple’s operations in China

  1. Outsources production to Taiwan’s Foxconn
  2. Taiwan offshores production to factories in China, primarily in Shenzhen
  3. Reports of withheld pay, forced overtime, low wages, intolerable working conditions

III. Responses

  1. Worker suicides
  2. Media attention,
  3. Chinese government orders Foxconn to change policies
  4. In the US: Media attention, The Agony of Steve Jobs
  5. Debates over pros and cons of offshoring

IV.  Apple’s Response

  1. Initially denied responsibility because Apple doesn’t set conditions of factories
  2. Ultimately issued new code of conduct for all factories to which it contracts production
  3. Foxconn promises to raise wages and eliminate forced overtime
  4. Reports suggest that little has changed in Foxconn plants
  5. Foxconn is moving parts of its operations to central China where the demand for low-wage work is stronger, less likely to encounter resistance

V.  Conclusions