MNE–civil society interactions: a systematic review and research agenda

Kayleigh Bruijn, Panikos Georgallis*, João Albino-Pimentel, Arno Kourula, Hildy Teegen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
47 Downloads (Pure)


Multinational enterprises (MNEs) and civil society (CS) interact in many ways across countries, with significant implications for these actors and for broader society. We review 166 studies of MNE–CS interactions in international business, general management, business and society, political science, sociology, and specialized non-profit journals over three decades. We synthesize this large and fragmented literature to characterize the nature (cooperation or conflict) and context (geography, industry, and issue) of MNE–CS interactions and uncover their antecedents, outcomes, and moderators. Our review reveals important blind spots in our understanding of the antecedents and outcomes of MNE–CS interactions and uncovers substantial discrepancy between the contexts of real-world MNE–CS interactions and the contexts examined in the literature. We propose actionable recommendations to (i) better indicate and expand the contexts where MNE–CS interactions are studied; (ii) enrich understanding of the antecedents of MNE–CS interactions by leveraging institutional and cultural perspectives; (iii) reorient research on the outcomes of MNE–CS interactions by examining the temporal dynamics of MNE learning and legitimacy, and (iv) emphasize societal relevance as reflected, for example, in green capabilities and moral markets. We hope this review will inspire new inter-disciplinary perspectives on MNE–CS interactions and inform research addressing urgent societal challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-156
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Issue number2
Early online date23 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024
MoE publication typeA2 Review article, Literature review, Systematic review


  • Civil society
  • Conflict
  • Grand challenges
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • Social movements
  • Sustainability


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