10 February 2023


The Good Lobby Tracker

by The Good Lobby

There is growing momentum worldwide to make business responsible for the ways it impacts the planet, workers and communities. Yet there is one impact that is rarely discussed, as it remains hidden to the public eye. This is the “political footprint” that companies leave behind through the exercise of corporate political activities (CPAs), be it lobbying or political contributions, aimed at shaping – and often undermining – regulations designed to benefit society.

Despite heavily influencing policy outcomes, CPAs are not consistently reported on or integrated into public policymaking or corporate and investment decision-making processes. In these circumstances, businesses receive little reward for responsible conduct, through the adoption of self-imposed standards, while civil society remains largely unable to exercise its watchdog function at a political level.

As in other structurally important and politically sensitive areas of public policy, such as climate change, public health and tax policy, lack of coherent and consistent regulatory responses to corporate political influence has given rise to a complex and hard to understand collection of private-driven overlapping standards, indicators and expectations.

At present, it appears to be the market (via voluntary standards and ratings of company disclosures on their CPAs) rather than the state (via mandatory lobbying regulations) that is pushing for more consistent, comparable disclosure of corporate political influence campaigns and spending.

This new initiative intends to shed light on this shady world by setting up the first, publicly-available tracker of private sector actors, predominantly ESG data providers, whose indicators provide a floor for information and standards around corporate political engagement, lobbying, and other forms of influence on policy and democracy.

The purpose of the Initiative

The Good Lobby Tracker identifies, assesses and makes public a range of existing standards on CPAs, with a view to informing action to regulate for higher standards and more consistent and comparable information disclosures across all markets.

The project will include the publication of scorecards, mapping tools and a benchmark comparison on the robustness of current disclosure standards on corporate political engagement, including:

  • ESG rating provider methodologies (e.g. Sustainalytics, S&P, Moody’s, RepRisk, MSCI);
  • Sustainability reporting standards (e.g. GRI 415, CDP); and
  • Third-party standards on corporate political engagement (e.g. OECD/UN-PRI).

The goal is to inform and enhance efforts to regulate corporate political engagement and its multiple activities in an ambitious and effective manner. Increased ambition from all stakeholders in the market is key, but governments must also increase ambition and effectiveness of regulatory responses to excessive corporate influence.

We look forward to engaging our contacts across government, academia, civil society and the business and finance sectors to make the system of corporate lobbying more transparent and effective. This applied research will support the implementation of systems that mean businesses engage responsibly, sustainably and ethically with political processes and the actors involved in public decision-making at all levels of government in all countries.

Learn more and get involved

We will post project updates and outputs on this site. If you are interested to learn more, get involved or receive periodic updates on our work and are interested in engaging with us, and want to discuss the research, please get in touch with the project team. It is led by Alberto Alemanno and Dieter Zinnbauer.