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Title: The changing role of business leaders in global governance : an empirical study of the role of business leaders in shaping the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Author: Gitsham, Matthew
ISNI:       0000 0004 9352 7222
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis focuses on the phenomenon of companies lobbying for more activist government public policy intervention to advance sustainable development. While there is a degree of agreement that the world faces pressing sustainable development challenges, there is less agreement about how best to organise to tackle them. One area of ongoing debate has been how far to rely on markets versus government intervention. Proponents of more government intervention have argued that increased corporate power in global governance since the rise of economic globalization has made it harder for governments to intervene. In this context, the phenomenon of some companies lobbying for more government intervention holds the promise of being a potentially helpful development. The thesis therefore explores, firstly, whether such action can be understood as a helpful development, and, secondly, how the occurrence of such action might be accounted for. If such action can be judged helpful, understanding more about what accounts for its occurrence could help those who might be interested to try to encourage more of it. The thesis examines these questions in relation to the empirical case of corporate lobbying during the process to develop the UN Sustainable Development Goals over the period 2012-2015, using a critical hermeneutics research methodology. The study principally focuses on two distinct but interconnected lobbying processes over the period 2012-2015 – one coordinated by the UN Global Compact, and the other coordinated by Unilever in partnership with other organisations. The study examines a comprehensive dataset in relation to corporate lobbying for the SDGs, including 12 key public domain documents and a further 13 non-public domain documents communicating private sector views about the development of the SDGs to policymakers, observations of nine meetings between business leaders and policymakers and 13 meetings between business executives discussing their approach to coordinating their lobbying activities, 57 interviews with corporate representatives involved in the lobbying processes (including 13 CEOs or chairpersons) and a further 395 related documents. The thesis builds on and offers a contribution by further developing the literatures on both Corporate Political Activity and Political CSR (and the latter’s linked literatures on Deliberative Lobbying and Responsible Leadership). The thesis does so by employing and further developing Paul Ricoeur’s theory of the self, motivated action and the ethical intention. On the basis of the analysis of texts undertaken, following critical hermeneutics principles, the thesis argues for a particular interpretation, but acknowledges that other interpretations could also be valid. The thesis firstly proposes that such lobbying action can be judged a helpful contribution to advancing sustainable development, but with caveats. The thesis secondly proposes that the occurrence of such action might be accounted for by arguing for a narrative that links the existence of governance gaps arising from economic globalization, the level of personal exposure of senior executives to manifestations of these governance gaps, and the nature of the intersubjectively-shaped hermeneutic horizon with which senior executives interpret these manifestations they encounter. Lobbying governments to make public policy interventions to advance sustainable development appears a rational response to senior executives whose intersubjectively-shaped sense of the good aimed at in everyday action emphasises a responsibility to create long-term value for all stakeholders, rather than just shareholders, and that sometimes advancing social welfare requires exercising power-in-common through the state, rather than just the pursuit of self-interest and the limiting of state intervention to protect the autonomy of the individual. The thesis identifies a range of different kinds of encounters with others and otherness over a lifetime that can shape a senior executive’s hermeneutical horizon and sense of the good aimed at in everyday action, further elaborating on the proposals made by Ricoeur in his theory of solicitude. The thesis concludes by summarising the contributions to theory it makes, as well as outlining a series of implications for practice and further research.
Supervisor: Nayak, A. ; Rowlinson, M. ; Gosling, J. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals ; Corporate Political Activity ; Political CSR ; Deliberative Lobbying ; Corporate Sustainability ; Responsible Leadership ; Unilever ; UN Global Compact ; Business-government interaction ; Global governance ; Earth System Governance ; Policy instruments for sustainable development ; Ricoeur ; Critical hermeneutics