Research Guide for Partners - Web of Influence

From Powerbase
(Redirected from Research Guide for Partners)
Jump to: navigation, search

The Research Guide for Partners is part of the Web of Influence project.


This brief guide provides information to support the process of gathering data for tasks in WP12, that will ultimately map the 'web of influence' and provide the content for our analysis.

Many different tactics, strategies and types of organisations are used by various actors to shape policy. The data gathered here will enable us to build a picture of who influences policy related to addictions and to compare our findings across the countries we are looking at. The information on individuals, corporations, trade associations and policy circles will be the data for analysis. The range of policy areas and organisations means that there will be numerous organisations and actors. We have given some examples that will hopefully help illustrate some of the issues you are bound to come up against. Some groups will overlap and fit into more than one category. Government working in partnership with industry is increasingly common in the UK; whereas perhaps this is not the case in Estonia, or Italy. The analysis will help us to identify similarities and differences across member states.

This introduction outlines the types of organisations we will gather data on for our analysis, before going on to discuss sources and resources providing more information about Powerbase.

This guide coupled with the list of questions for each type of organisation provide sets out exactly the types of data that is required for this part of the project. Please feel free to add any other relevant information to your analysis or to point out any interesting phenomena within the nation state or policy level you are looking at.

Industrial Sectors

The project covers the industrial sectors of alcohol, gambling, food, tobacco and digital addictions. One priority will be to give a brief description of each sector in terms of how it is regulated, which corporations dominate a sector and whether they are local or international companies. This material should be posted on the relevant case study page.

Industry and national level






Trade Associations

Trade Associations – also known as Business Associations or Sectoral associations – are usually formed to represent the interests of particular industries or industrial sectors. Thus there are a myriad of trade associations at national level in the Food, Alcohol, Tobacco and Gambling industries. We take an expansive view of the industrial sectors here. Thus we are not simply referring to the companies that manufacture food, alcohol or tobacco, but also those that distribute, promote and sell (retail or wholesale) the product or behaviour. To some extent the boundaries of this will be relatively clearly demarcated in the membership of the various trade associations, which will include supermarkets, advertising companies, entertainment firms etc.

We need to gather data on the total population of such groupings in each country case study, together with data about membership and activities. We are interested in how these groups work together or compete and in their internal organisation and dynamics. One key question is the extent to which the relative power of large multinational companies has prevailed over the interests of small and independent firms. Membership and internal structural arrangements can shed light on these issues. For example, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is dominated by Diageo and other large producers only a few small or independent producers are members. Details like this are important because the SWA provides Diageo with an alternative lobbying vehicle.


There are a range of individuals involved in the process of developing addictions policy, shaping the discourse and setting the agenda. In the UK some members of parliament and members of the House of Lords have business links or even shares in alcohol companies. Some senior civil servants go from public office straight into high profile corporations, commonly known as the revolving door. Some academics and many charities receive research funding from industry some of that is noteworthy. Some board members serve on other boards too, corporate interlocks, and often these are relevant. It is important to chart an individual's role within think tanks, policy groups and supra-national or international roles held, for example at the European policy level or international work within trade associations, think tanks or lobbying groups. The Revolving Door is of particular interest when considering individuals. Revolving Door is the term used to describe the working of government where, after leaving their positions within the government, civil servants, MPs or ministers take up jobs as lobbyists or consultants in the area of their former public service. It is a two-way system which also allows former private sector employees to accept positions in the government where they have the power to regulate the sector they once worked in. The phenomenon of the revolving door is an indication of the problem of corporate power and a key indicator of lobbyists' power over government. For some examples of the Revolving Door Phenomena see our List of people and organisations involved in Revolving Door.


The primary focus of the web of influence is to identify corporations and their links to other organisations and individuals involved in addictions. For example Diageo in Scotland have vast connections with other industrial sectors, governments and research groups here is a list of their involvement from a UK perspective. This list illustrates the type of industry involvement that the multi-national has. Identifying these links across addictive industries is a solid starting place for our investigation. (Diageo Scotland) Often board members of large corporations are also board members on companies within other sectors. This can be significant and is known as a corporate interlock. The ties between individuals are important but we often find that some companies always have corporate interlocks with particular firms regardless of individuals, for commercial reasons. The links and reasons for them are worth exploring. In particular we need full data on directors of companies and of other organisations like think tanks or policy groups where they also have a role. This will enable us to identify corporate and lobbying interlocks.

Think Tanks, Policy Planning and Discussion Groups

This refers to a wide range of organisations engaged in policy related debate. They can all be said to be policy-planning groups, but it can be useful to designate various types of group.

Lobbying, PR & Research Consultancies

Consultancies are often used by large corporations to provide professional lobbying, public relations, research, legal or accounting services. We are interested only in those which are hired for advocacy purposes. However, it should be noted that Law firms and Accounting and research firms are regularly hired for lobbying or regulatory advocacy in the European Union. Lobbying firms and PR companies or consultancies are called by a variety of names including Public Affairs, Government Affairs, Regulatory Affairs, strategic communications, community relations etc. The defining feature of Lobbying and PR firms that they are hired by clients to pursue policy related advocacy. It is true that some other type of organisatons, such as discussion groups and think tanks, can engage in lobbying or advocacy or can try and disguise their lobbying activities. However, we are concerned, in this phase of the analysis, with taking organisations at face value. Later research will investigate the veracity of claims. Lobbying firms maybe small niche agencies or part of huge multinational communication conglomerates, they may be based in only one European city or have many offices in different countries. For example European Public Policy Advisers has offices in Berlin, Brussels, London, Moscow, Prague, The Hague and Warsaw, though it is not part of a large conglomerate. Hill & Knowlton, however was for many years the largest PR and lobbying firm in the world. It is now part of the global communications group WPP. Lobbying related firms

Lobbying efforts by corporations and trade associations themselves (often called ‘in house lobbying) should be detailed in their own profiles.

Some firms such as Weinberg Group offer lobbying and research services while others may specialise. Weinberg undertakes research and lobbying for tobacco, alcohol, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. They also work with think tanks like the European Policy Centre (and others) in advocacy for corporate interests. This company describes itself as 'an international scientific and regulatory consulting firm that helps companies protect their product at every stage of its life. We help our clients improve manufacturing processes, clear regulatory hurdles, and defend products in the courts and the media.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research is another research consultancy which has produced research for the chemicals and alcohol industry. ASDA and SABMiller both hired this group to provide research evidence that helped to support the industry view on setting a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland.

Self Regulatory Bodies/CSR /Partnership bodies

Information on how and where self regulatory regimes govern addictive substances forms part of a deliverable. This section is concerned with how and why self regulation came in to being and how this fits into wider regulation. If there is no self regulatory system or body in the area you are looking at please explain why. UK examples of self regulatory bodies include: The Portman Group and the Advertising Standards Authority. The Portman Group is an alcohol industry group that is responsible for implementing and monitoring the UK alcohol industry’s voluntary code of practice. The American equivalent is the Century Council. Is there an Italian, Estonian or Dutch equivalent? How close are they to government? What is their code? Are there similar organisations overseeing gambling or food?

News and journalism oriented bodies

These are organisations that are predominantly focused on attempting to inform, influence or manage the news and/or entertainment media. An obvious example in the UK is the Science Media Centre.

Public oriented/civil society/campaigning bodies

These are organisations which are focused (or at least say they are focused) on public campaigning and advocacy work. Crucially they claim to have some grass roots orientation or basis, to belong to civil society. We make no judgement – at this stage- about the veracity of such claims. We are interested in such groups if they are funded or otherwise supported by corporations. Some will be openly corporate funded and others less clearly so. One obvious type of such groups is patient groups that campaign on medical conditions. Some are funded by the pharmaceutical industry. One example is Cancer United.

Resources and Sources

  • How to be a Web Detective is a useful guide for internet research that provides some methods and sources for investigative web based research.
  • Registers of interests for politicians: In the UK politicians are required to log their financial interests which are published on the Parliamentary register of members’ interests. This often reveals corporate relationships and links.
  • Political donations: In the UK financial donations to political parties are subject to regulation and are publicly available. The Electoral Commission publishes details of contributions and donations should be registered here. Do equivalent regulatory bodies exist in Estonia, Italy, and the Netherlands? Identifying companies or sectors who make large political donations is clearly a primary aim of this section of ALICERAP.
  • Official reports, policy documents and government papers are all useful resources particularly when considering CSR, self regulatory systems or partnership groups between industry and government. Some governmental department publications are useful for a number of purposes. The page on the UK Responsibility Deal Alcohol Network uses sources from the Department of Health, alcohol and health charities, trade publications, the mainstream media and a research consultancy hired by industry to tell the story of the establishment of this policy partnership group.
  • The UK's parliament publishes a range of material and documents ranging from parliamentary standards, accounts, management, standing orders, MPs' financial interests, transcripts of parliamentary and Lord's debates (Hansard), committee reports, research reports, archives, business papers from both Houses (Commons and Lords) and a weekly information bulletin details available here: House of Commons publications
  • Companies House has been holding records on company details in the UK since 1844. Today this is a large publicly available resource that provides information on ownership, articles of association and annual returns, reports and accounts. A guide is available How to Use Companies House and their web site is available here : Companies House
  • Charity or non-profit regulators: Charitable organisations are required to register details of donations and activities with the UK Charity Commission The alcohol industry provides funding to a number of charities who deal with alcohol, this resource provides evidence of the industry only donating to charities who work on projects that suit alcohol industry interests. Specifically, focusing on individual level measures that do not harm profits e.g. youth, pregnant women and drivers.
  • Financial databases provide information on company directors, subsidiaries, the size and scale of the company. Most universities subscribe to one of these services. We use FAME - a subscription is required FAME
  • Trade publications are a useful resource as they are written mainly for commercial purposes and give a good insight into current trends, industry people and policy positions. Most industries have these, general media coverage is also useful to see how the discourse around addictions translates into the mainstream media. These resources are available from media databases, for example Nexis.
  • Company websites: These are a rich source of information, you can usually gather information on brands, market share, board members and executive officers. Senior staff with a responsibility for public affairs can often be identified via the company website. Lobbying firms, often but not always, list details of their clients and the work they have undertaken for them. Some lobbying firms are more reluctant to reveal the identity of their clients, in these circumstances information from trade publications and even mainstream media accounts can be useful.
  • Mainstream media sources can be an good way of identifying significant organisations and individuals and is often a useful starting place.
  • Biographies and personal profiles can be useful for charting the careers of individuals, the more high profile the individual, the easier this will be to find although company websites and trade press often print this information. This is useful for identifying instances where noteworthy individuals have been subject to the revolving door phenomena. Also see How to Find People Online
  • Freedom of Information legislation: in the UK allows access to otherwise unobtainable information. Estonia and the Netherlands also have similar acts, in Italy accessing this information seems more difficult. At the EU level there is access to information legislation. It will be interesting to hear if any of you have utilised these data sources and how useful you think this route to data might be. A guide to using the UK Freedom of Information Act is available here How to Use the Freedom of Information Act

About Powerbase

More information about Powerbase can be found here Powerbase:About including details our General disclaimer, Editorial Policy, Getting involved, Contributions, Copyrights, Frequently asked questions and Powerbase Corrections and Right of Reply.

More information and help can be found in the following pages: