As we are always being reminded,
businesses operate globally.
International relations and politics
are no longer just the domains
of nation states,
big multinational companies
are also concerned
with international politics and order.
They are not above conflict
of national interest
and can be partisans of particular countries.
There may be a few companies
that are transnational
and are truly separate from national interest
and are citizens of the world.
however, have their origins
and their loyalties to particular countries.
multinationals were rooted in countries
that developed in the West and Japan.
But now companies such as Tata
which has its origins in India
have joined the phalanx
of global corporations.
and a lack of the rule of law
between and within states
are not good for business.
But corporations may still need
to do business in regions and countries
where those things are present
either because such places happen
to be the source of materials
the corporations consume
or simply because corporations
need to operate within them
to expand their markets.
This can create dilemmas for companies
when professed commitments
to being socially responsible
and strategic necessity clash.
If a company finds itself operating
in a country
in which there is the conflict
and absence of human rights or corruption,
how should it respond?
This is not a simple question to answer
as the following example illustrates.
Talisman is a Canadian oil company
that was active in Sudan,
a country that has been suffering a civil war
between its Muslim north and its Christian
and animist south for two decades.
Talisman was charged by human rights groups
that its presence
exacerbated the civil war,
that the money it paid for the oil
was used to buy arms,
and that its oil operations
had displaced thousands of people.
In 2003, in response from criticism from NGOs
and the international media,
from the Nile Petroleum Operating Company,
which it owned in partnership
China National Petroleum Corporation,
PETRONAS, the Malaysian oil company,
and the Sudanese state-owned oil company.
Talisman sold its share of NPOC
to an arm of India's Oil
and Natural Gas Corporation.
The organizations that then owned NPOC
were all state-owned.
Therefore, they do not raise their capital
on the international markets
nor are they accountable to shareholders.
Seymour, in 2003,
argued that these organizations benefited
from the political turmoil in Sudan
which acted to keep
their western competitors out,
a legitimate concern on their part
because since the peace deal
that brought the civil war to an end in 2005,
western oil companies
have shown a renewed interest in Sudan.
Seymour also argued that
because the companies that owned NPOC
are themselves owned by governments
which are often intolerant of critical voices
within their own countries,
these corporations are immune
to the demands of human rights groups,
such as having encouraged Talisman
to quit Sudan.
Seymour expressed it on page five
of his article
"Talisman is out... What Now?"
In the North-South Institute biannual newsletter
and I quote,
"With the sale of Talisman's share,
a company that its critics
had ensured had an interest
in attempting to moderate the government
of Sudan's policies has left.
What remains are companies
that actively support the government of Sudan
and its war against southerners,
with all its attendant human rights abuses.
The moral calculus
is thus vastly more complex,
and our celebration of Talisman's departure