Case Study

Questions

  1. Describe the main implications of different market structures for businesses and consumers. Drawing on the information reported in the case study discuss which market structure could describe the market for internet searches. Give reasons for your answer.

(400 words)

  1. Imagine you work for Google in Europe and have been asked to explain to a new employee the role of government in the economic context and the role of lobbying for your business. Describe the main activities pursued by government in mixed economic systems and how businesses may influence government through lobbying. Give one reason why lobbying is important for Google and one reason why lobbying could be problematic for Google. (400 words)

 

  1. Find some additional information related to the issues described in the case study provided here (through Google’s website for charitable activity, google.org, and the BBC News website). Summarise this information as your answer to this question, providing references to the original sources you found and attaching the original articles/news items in an appendix to your TMA. (400 words)
  2. Based on the case study and the additional information you gathered for the previous question, discuss where Google should be positioned on Carroll’s pyramid of CSR and why? (400 words)
  3. Imagine that you are the chief executive of Google in Europe and that you have been asked to identify the three most important stakeholders for Google Europe. For each of the three stakeholders you have identified, explain why they are important. In each case, refer to one ethical theory to justify your answer. (400 words)

 

 

 

 

 

Guidance to the questions

Question 1:

The first part of this question asks you to describe the main implications of different market structures for businesses and consumers; Reading 42 in Block 5 is relevant. For this part of the question you need to draw on the theoretical concepts. The second part of the question asks you to apply the concepts covered in Reading 42 to the case study by discussing which market structure could describe the market for internet searches and explaining why. You might refer to features of different market structures. Half of the marks will be assigned for your answer to the first part of the question; the other half for your answer to the second part. Write approximately 400 words on this question.

Question 2:

This question also has two parts. In the first part, you are asked to describe briefly (a) the main activities pursued by government in mixed economic systems (using concepts from Reading 44), and (b) how businesses may influence the government through lobbying (using concepts from  Reading 45). The second part of the question asks you to state one reason why a business like Google might want to engage in lobbying and one reason why lobbying might be considered a problematic activity for a business like Google. Half of the marks will be assigned for your answer to the first part of the question; the other half for your answer to the second part. Write approximately 400 words on this question.

Question 3:

This question requires you to find some additional information on the issues covered in the case study, using the BBC news website and the website of Google’s charitable arm (www.google.org – or search for it using a search engine). There is no specified amount of information that you are required to find. However, approximately two items from the Google charitable website and approximately two items from the BBC news site will be considered a reasonable number. In your answer to this question, summarise the information that you have found in approximately 400 words altogether. This will require you to be quite succinct. Make sure you give complete references to the original sources of the information that you summarise. Attach the original articles as an appendix to your TMA. Your tutor will mark your answer to this question based on the quality of your summary, not the quality of the information you have found.

Question 4:

This question asks you to discuss where Google should be positioned on Carroll’s pyramid of CSR. Use concepts from Reading 47 and the case study information, as well as the additional information you gathered for question 3 as the basis for your answer here. Make sure you give reasons for your answer. There is no absolutely correct answer here. Rather, we are looking for you to come to a decision about where to place Google on Carroll’s pyramid and to justify this decision using evidence from the case study and your additional information. Write approximately 400 words on this question.

Question 5:

This question asks you to identify what you consider to be Google Europe’s three most important stakeholders and explain why each of these stakeholders is important. You need to use ethical theories
(e.g. utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, etc.) to justify your answer. For each stakeholder, you need to explain its importance using one ethical theory. You can use three different ethical theories to explain the importance of the three stakeholders you have identified or you can use one ethical theory to justify the importance of two or all three stakeholders. This will depend on your reasoning in identifying the stakeholder and their importance. Use concepts from Reading 54 as well as from Readings 49 to 52 to help you structure this answer. Again, there is no absolutely correct answer to this question. Rather, your tutor will look for your ability to draw on the ethical theories to justify your answer. Write approximately 400 words on this question.

 

 

 

 

Case Study

Google’s approach to CSR, government and lobbying

Google’s position as a dominant player in global business is by now well established; the success of its core business is reflected in the simple fact that the name ‘Google’ has become almost interchangeable with the words ‘internet search’. More specifically, throughout Europe search engine market share is dominated by Google with between 90% and 96% market share; Baidu, Yandex and Bing account for 3%, 4% and 1.28% share respectively (MVF, undated) with the remaining share split between many search engines relatively popular in one given country (for example, Conduit in Spain or Vinden.nl in the Netherlands that have approximately 3% of market share in the two respective countries) (Bas van den Beld, 2010). The only slight exception is Russia where Yandex has a 62% share of the domestic market (Phillips, 2015).

Summing up, Google is undoubtedly the full dominant force in Europe and all over the world: as a sign of the company’s health, in 2014, it reported revenues of $66bn, up 19% on 2013 (Google, 2014).

The common image of Google as a company tends to be one of a more socially conscious group of people than is regularly associated with big business. In fact, a visit to its charitable website, google.org will inform you of a range of activities conducted by the business, from the promotion of women’s rights to the elimination of the disease Ebola. Synonymous with Google’s image as a socially aware and engaged business is its social mantra of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ (Google, 2015). Meant as a broad statement of intent, the unfussy and plain-speaking way in which Google describes its ethics was meant to distinguish it from the wider corporate world. The message was and is: we’re different to those other people! At its outset, Google was said to hold strong “societal goals” (Larry Page, Google co-founder, quoted in

Gibbs, 2014).

The company’s mission statement to ‘organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ was meant as a way of describing the driving passion of the business’ founders to transform the availability of information. The aspiration was that anyone with an internet connection would be able to access valued information in a relatively simple and accessible way. Google argues, however, that its ambitions stretch beyond the limits of how people use computers and communication devices. Referring to some of the major problems facing the world at present, its chief executive and founder Larry Page has stated that “we could probably solve a lot of the issues we have as humans” (Waters, 2014). Page was here referring to the self-image of Google as working alongside and with its customers and with large organisations, such as governments and charitable organisations.

Despite these good intentions, as with many large businesses, some controversy has followed alongside the growth of Google into delivering a broader range of products, such as Maps, the Google Drive, internet-browsing software Chrome and its shopping services. Larry Page has stated that he believed the company might need to revisit its mission statement, saying, in reference to how its values could be translated across a wider array of products and services: “We’re still trying to work that out” (Waters, 2014).

One of the things Google is trying to work out currently is attention from the European Union (EU). The EU’s competition commissioner is investigating whether Google uses its dominant market position as a search engine provider in order to gain advantage in other areas of business (BBC, 2015). Google also faces an investigation into its Android apps service. More specifically, the European Commission wants to avoid Google using its dominance in internet search to favour its shopping service. The idea is that better competition could bring better benefits to all the businesses involved in the market and to all the consumers.

Against this backdrop, Google has reportedly substantially increased the amount of money it spends on lobbying in Europe (Ahmed and Robinson, 2014). That said, the approach adopted has been described as a ‘charm offensive’ and ‘“soft power”’ approach (Ahmed and Robinson, 2014). The softer approach to lobbying is seen as significant in the context of other major companies adopting a much more aggressive – and ultimately unsuccessful – strategy when faced with challenges from government.

According to Ahmed and Robinson (2014) the Google approach to lobbying has consisted of ‘private lobbying, philanthropic initiatives and public events to try to influence policy makers’. The same article quoted a Green MEP from Germany, Jan Philipp Albrecht, as saying: “The difference between Google and the others is that on a personal level they are very nice and reasonable. It makes them look a reasonable partner.”

 

 

 

 
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