Students explore the relationship between countries and transnational corporations by assessing the extent to which the operations of selected transnational corporations support a country's basic obligations to its citizens and then by generalizing about the compatibility of country and corporate interests.
A. To what extent do the operations of your assigned transnational corporation support the basic obligations of a country to its citizens?
Introduction to concept: Transnational corporations
Explain to students that one of the key developments in economic globalization has been the rise of large corporations, e.g., Google, Exxon, Disney, Bombardier, Nike, Starbucks, Microsoft, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, whose operations extend into many countries. Some transnational corporations have budgets larger than those of many countries. Countries often go to great lengths to encourage transnational corporations to expand their operations within their territories, but critics worry that these corporations are so powerful that they threaten the ability of nations to manage their own economic, political and social affairs effectively.
Identify opportunities and challenges posed by transnational corporations
Encourage students to discuss in general terms the kinds of benefits and potential challenges presented by transnational corporations; e.g., jobs, secondary industries, exports, political interference, environmental costs.
Examine constitutions to identify responsibilities of a country to its inhabitants
After some discussion, invite students to consider the extent to which these corporations advance the interests of individual countries. Begin by reaching general agreement on the basic responsibilities of a country to its inhabitants. Guide students in generating the following kinds of obligations:
- prosperity of the people
- equality of treatment and opportunity
- territorial security
- cultural and social vitality
- environmental health
- influence on the world stage.
You may want to provide copies of the founding principles of various countries to examine obligations recognized in constitutional documents. For example, the Constitution of Poland, adopted in 1997, offers the following principles:
The Republic of Poland shall safeguard the independence of and integrity of its territory and ensure the freedoms and rights of persons and citizens, the security of the citizens, safeguard the national heritage and shall ensure the protection of the natural environment pursuant to the principles of sustainable development.
Develop a set of basic priorities
As a whole class agree upon a common set of basic priorities. To meet diverse learning needs, you may want to limit the set to three prioritiesprosperity, equality of opportunity and environmental health.
Research a transnational corporation
Assign students, individually or in small groups, to research a specific transnational corporation to determine the extent to which this company's actions and policies are compatible with the set of basic priorities. A search of "multinational corporation" in Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia provides links to informative Web sites describing the history and operations of over 40 transnational corporations (see References). Encourage students to gather general information about their assigned company and its scope of operations before they consider specific practices.
You may want to adapt the charts and strategies in Reporter's Log (Support Material) to structure this activity around the 5W questions.
Rate the transnational corporation's performance on basic priorities
Instruct students to use a five-point scale to rate the operations of their assigned company on each of the basic priorities. Suggest that students use a scale that ranges from "greatly benefits" to "greatly challenges." Encourage students to provide evidence to support each rating.
You may want to adapt the charts and strategies in Rating Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
Share research findings and ratings
Arrange for students to present their findings to the whole class.
B. Are the interests of a country and transnational corporations compatible?
Use diagrams to display relationships between national and transnational interests
After all the groups have shared their assessments, provide students with the four diagrams illustrated below. Ask students to identify the diagram that best represents the relationship between national and transnational interests and explain which they believe would be the most desirable.
Direct students to record information from their analysis of basic priorities and transnational corporations' actions into the appropriate areas of the diagram they have selected.
Defend choice of diagrams
To meet diverse learning needs, ask students to explain to the whole class or to a small group why their choice of diagram most accurately captures the relationship. Other students might write a supported opinion paragraph on the relationship between country and transnational interests.
Extension: Rank the best and worst corporate citizens
Invite students to judge which transnational corporations appear to be the best and the worst corporate citizens.
You may want to adapt the charts and strategies in Ranking Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.