The Multinational Company and Society : A Study of Business Network Relationships in Latin America

Abstract: 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.