Business and Politics

Scholars of "Business and Politics" analyze companies' actions, processes, and outcomes in the political sphere. Companies use their resources to shape political institutions, for instance, through lobbying or media campaigns. These so-called Corporate Political Activities (CPA) are a cornerstone of this research field. Scholars of political Corporate Social Responsibility propose a normative view. They stress that the political responsibilities of companies are associated with systemic responsibility, i.e., companies are committed to introducing and enforcing institutions and norms to promote socially desirable goals such as fostering democracy, reducing discrimination, combating hunger, or fighting against climate change. Because these goals relate to human rights, the political responsibilities of companies should support the respect of human rights. 

Business and Human Rights

Human rights are the egalitarian and pre-state rights all human beings are entitled to by birth and directed to state and supranational sovereignty for respect, protection, and fulfillment. They claim universal recognition and are inalienable, indivisible, and interdependent. States are fundamentally obliged to respect and protect human rights vis-à-vis their citizens. Sometimes, states are unwilling or lack the possibility to fulfill these obligations, and thus, scholars from different fields propose companies to fill this gap. In particular, multinational corporations are called upon to respect and protect human rights worldwide.

My article from 2022 demonstrates how the state, civil society, and business negotiate corporate responsibility for human rights in a parliamentary legislative process on a supply chain law (Brühl 2022). For this purpose, the article takes up important arguments of philosophical ethics, business ethics, legal studies, and political science, which have emerged as particularly prominent in the ongoing debate. The article demonstrates that questions of the scope of responsibility, the companies to be included, and which rights and goods are to be considered are of great relevance in the parliamentary debate.

Business and Democracy

Traditionally, European companies do not actively engage in political debates and, in particular, stay out of political disputes. In recent years, a different trend has emerged: more and more companies perceive themselves as political actors and engage in political activities that go beyond well-known activities such as lobbying or donations. Past corporate abuse colors public judgment of corporate motives and limits public acceptance of a legitimate role for corporations as political actors. To change this and to be able to leverage the democratic potential of increased corporate engagement as a political factor, companies need a political self-image that goes beyond ad hoc activist responses.

We propose corporate political responsibility as a shared responsibility between business and governmental actors to solve societal challenges (Brühl and Kapteina 2021). Within this conceptual view, companies are called upon to invest in the political system to improve conditions for all actors in society. In this paper, we illustrate our view with several cases of corporate political activities to showcase the shared view of political responsibilities.

Corporate Political Activities and Innovations

Corporates' Political Activities (CPAs) are important for affecting firm-level innovation outcomes. Our study examines how these CPAs may influence innovation inputs (Richter, Kapteina, and Brühl 2022). We draw on the capability literature to theorize a positive relationship between political capabilities (i.e., firms' organizational and strategic capacities to conduct political activities effectively) and firm-level R&D intensity. Moreover, we theorize on the contingencies of this relationship. We test our hypotheses using a hand-collected data set in the context of the supranational European Union. The results of the regression analyses confirm that political capabilities are positively related to R&D intensity. Market dynamism positively moderates the relationship between political capabilities and R&D intensity, whereas industry concentration negatively moderates the relationship. At a higher level of abstraction, our study makes important contributions to understanding how and under what conditions political activities relate to corporate innovation.


 Research partner: Benedikt Kapteina.


Rolf Brühl: On the responsibility of corporate actors for human rights in the supply chain, in: Wenzel Matiaske, Dorothea Alewell and Ortrud Leßmann (Eds.), The 'Betrieb' as corporate actor, Management Review, Special Issue, Volume 33, 2022, S. 60-83 (to the article).

Philipp Richter, Benedikt Kapteina und Rolf Brühl: Do firms' political capabilities increase their R&D investments? Evidence for direct and contingency effects in the European Union, in: European Journal of Management, Volume 22, Issue 1, 2022, 108-127 (Download from SSRN).

Rolf Brühl and Benedikt Kapteina: Fighting for democracy: the case for corporate political responsibility, in: LSE Business Review. 2022 (Blog post, abridged verision of next entry).

Rolf Brühl and Benedikt Kapteina: Fighting for democracy: Companies’ sustainable investments in the political arena, in: Pramuan Bunkanwanicha, Florian Lüdeke-Freund, Kamran Razmdoost, and Sonia Ben Slimane (Eds.), Better business: creating sustainible value, ESCP Impact Papers, 2021, 181-186 (Download).