Over the past two decades unions, community organizations and NGOs have been conducting increasingly sophisticated research and building strategic campaigns against corporations around the world. Campaigns have focused on organizing low wage workers, fighting back against sweatshops and polluters, and supporting unions fighting for decent contracts in tough economic times.
Unfortunately there are few resources for community and union activists to learn these research techniques. There are sites that list URLs and sources for corporate information, but in our experience they do not provide much of a road map for corporate investigation, especially for first-time researchers. Over 50 years ago – way before the internet was invented – sociologist C. Wright Mills argued that we were being overwhelmed by information and that what we needed is not more information but a framework to make sense of that information.
- Start with a Framework to Direct Your Research
While general internet searching can yield important information on firms, it is not the best way to conduct systematic corporate research. As so many of us have discovered, it is easy to drown in all the information you can find on the internet.With Mills in mind, on this site we introduce a framework and a visual representation of the 24 areas where you should direct your research. We then outline a series of questions for each of these areas for you to drill down to the specific information you need to gather about the firm you are investigating. We encourage you to start by reading Tom Juravich’s Beating Global Capital: a Framework and Method for Union Strategic Corporate Research and Campaigns to learn more about this framework and approach.
- Identify Key Websites
Rather than just providing a laundry list of URLs we provide links to a select group of websites to answer each of the questions and some basics on how to use these sites. In our experience it is best to focus on the most comprehensive websites for corporate research and learn how to use them.
- Focus on Primary Materials.
There are many sites available on the internet that gather information from primary materials on firms. Some are excellent and others are incomplete and out of date. Whenever possible we direct you to the primary sources. Why would you use a website that gathers information on corporate structure or CEO salary from other sources when you could go directly to the primary documents yourself? We have also not included basic sites such as yellow pages, online directories and general internet search sites. Many users will already be familiar with these and they are readily available on the internet.
- Different Approaches for Different Kinds of Employers
There are very different kinds of information and sources for information depending on what type of employer you are researching. Rather than lumping all this together in one place, we have created separate sections for publicly traded, privately held, nonprofits (charities) and the public sector on the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
- Analyzing What You Have Found
In addition to just telling you where to find information we also provide resources on how to summarize and make sense of that information. Our strategic summary proves an important link to moving from research to campaigns.