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THINK GLOBALLY. THE ACTIVISTS DO. Bloomgarden says the Internet makes it possible to "organize a global community around a certain issue in a split second." In particular, if you're an American firm, listen to what your European divisions and partners say. Many of tomorrow's issues, particularly in the fields of environmentalism and international human rights, get an airing in Europe before they do in the U.S. Amadi observes that most European companies have a broader view of who their stakeholders are; American ones often concentrate solely on their stockholders. Secrett fingers Monsanto, once a world leader in biotechnology, as a classic example of a company that thought it could adopt American tactics and "resist and fight" those Europeans who opposed genetically modified crops. (It lost.)
It's easy to dismiss petrol-bomb throwers, but when millions of young people feel that the opportunities and costs of globalization aren't being fairly distributed, companies that appear sympathetic may gain a competitive edge. European and Japanese companies report that young graduates ask tough questions about a potential employer's social practices. And European firms, with their more developed commitment to social responsibility, Edelman argues, are developing a "halo effect" among consumers worldwide. For American firms competing globally, that's a reason to know what NGO stands for.