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The Multinational Company and Society: A Study of Business Network Relationships in Latin America
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Business Studies.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The role of society for the development of multinational companies’ (MNC) business has so far not attracted much scholarly attention in international marketing. Responding to recent calls for further research relating MNCs with society, the aim of this thesis is to enhance the understanding of the MNC relationship with society. Standing on the business network perspective, the theoretical view includes society in the network. Apart from business actors, the view incorporates public actors (such as governments) and civil society actors (such as Non-Governmental Organizations). Thus, contrary to earlier business network studies, the MNC relationships with non-business actors are explicitly handled as part of the business network in this thesis.

For the fulfillment of the aim - understanding the MNC relationship with society - the study applies the four relationship elements knowledge, commitment, trust and legitimacy. In further developing the theoretical view, the results from the empirical and theoretical findings in the papers, along with others’ contributions in this field, have inspired the development of interdependence in relationships. Consequently, the main emphasis in the ‘Thesis Summary’ is put on a deeper theoretical discussion of the concept of interdependence. The interdependence framework maps different relationship types with business and non-business actors in business networks. The implications on the management of the different types of relationships are also further developed.

The empirical study, which inspired the theoretical development, concerns a qualitative and abductive case study of a Swedish MNC’s relationships with actors from the business, public and civil society sectors in Argentina and Brazil. The study is based on 51 interviews, observations and documentation as its main data sources. It resulted in four papers, which were developed in the areas of crisis, subsidiary strategy, radical innovation and expansion to the rural ‘Base of the Pyramid’, all applying a relational perspective.

The thesis has both empirical and theoretical contributions. The major empirical contribution concerns the behavior of MNCs in emerging economies in relation to society. The theoretical development contributes deeper exploration of business relationships and network perspectives in the context of society, adding a novel employment of the same. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Företagsekonomiska institutionen , 2014. , 106 p.
Doctoral thesis / Företagsekonomiska institutionen, Uppsala universitet, ISSN 1103-8454 ; 169
Keyword [en]
society, multinational company, business network, relationship, non-business actor, interdependence, NGO, CSR, emerging economies
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-220447OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-220447DiVA: diva2:705141
Public defence
2014-04-25, Hörsal 2, Ekonomikum, Kyrkogårdsgatan 10, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2014-04-03 Created: 2014-03-14 Last updated: 2014-04-03
List of papers
1. Managing stability and crises in business relationships: The case of Ericsson in an emerging market
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Managing stability and crises in business relationships: The case of Ericsson in an emerging market
2013 (English)In: European Business Review, ISSN 0955-534X, Vol. 25, no 6, 518-535 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose – Adding to the theoretical view of relationship development, this paper holds the view that relationship change encompasses not only smooth incremental change but also includes crises which can trigger relationship weakening, dissolution and/or recovery. The aim is to develop a theoretical view that allows understanding of both smooth incremental and critical changes in the process of relationship development.

Design/methodology/approach – Based on a business network perspective, the paper's relationship view holds uncertainty, commitment and trust as central explanatory elements. The process view is composed of three episodes: incremental relationship development; relationship crisis; and ending or survival. The paper employs a longitudinal case study method and discusses how the relationship between the Swedish firm, Ericsson, and its counterpart, Telefónica, develops in the emerging market of Argentina during the period of 1998-2004.

Findings – Conclusions demonstrate the vulnerability of relationships due to counterparts' behaviour and network embeddedness. This is a risk of commitment deterioration, and remedial actions like investment in new commitments will reduce distrust and uncertainty. Re-energizing relationships incrementally requires behaviour like waiting strategies, when otherwise the choice is to exit.

Originality/value – Few researchers have combined the findings from stable relationship development studies with the findings from research on crisis into one model handling both stability and instability in business relationships. This is despite the fact that episodes of turbulence and instability are becoming more common in business relationships, due to entrance into more unstable markets, and markets crises of various types.

National Category
Business Administration
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-220332 (URN)10.1108/EBR-01-2013-0007 (DOI)
Available from: 2014-03-12 Created: 2014-03-12 Last updated: 2014-11-13Bibliographically approved
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