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How a Social Capital Approach can help Multinationals show Ethical Leadership


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  • Peter Heslam
  • Ian Jones
  • Michael Pollitt


In this paper we explore how social capital concepts can guide multinational firms’ decision making in developing countries. From a survey of recent research, we identify four types of social capital: institutional, relational, moral and spiritual. Because these capitals overlap and yet are distinctive, they are individually and collectively useful in assessing how firms contribute to society beyond the generation and accumulation of financial capital. In each case we discuss examples of how particular multinationals have sought to build the different elements of social capital. Our examples include Intel, Anglo American, Merck and ServiceMaster. We suggest that a consideration of the impact of decisions on each of these elements of social capital provides an important ‘moral compass’ for these firms. We also suggest further work that needs to be done in understanding the impact that multinationals have on the social capital of the countries in which they operate.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by ESRC Centre for Business Research in its series ESRC Centre for Business Research - Working Papers with number wp388.

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Date of creation: Jun 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cbr:cbrwps:wp388

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Keywords: social capital; multinationals; economic development; institutional capital; relational capital; moral capital; spiritual capital.;

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