MNC’s Operational Implications in Achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

The transnationalisation of state ownership through manufacturing and financial Multinational Corporations (MNCs) has facilitated the opportunity of firms to shift production sites, integrate themselves in complex supply chains that have complex regulatory mechanisms, and avoid states attempts to domestically tax and regulate their activities according to local law’s. As a response to the international political economy’s complex imposition of global capitalism, the United Nation’s (UN) has launched the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Having altered its highly contested and isolationist Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the African continent, its new ambitious global agenda outlines seventeen interdependent categories that embody the most accurate multidimensional representation of how “sustainable development” can be manifested to date. Nevertheless, in order to achieve these goals within more impoverished states, governments must tailor their allocation of resources according to their most dire necessities. Nevertheless, these goals hold contradictions and assumptions that counter governments interests of establishing domestically self-sustainable secondary sectors and, therefore, allow tertiary sectors the opportunity to flourish. Challenging the role MNCs play within the SDGs can allow decision makers to better format their relationships with transnational actors and fulfill the interests of not only their countries, but the environment and their citizens.

Considering how a total of 147 MNCs control a total economic sum of approximately 40 percent of transnational firms gains globally, states become increasingly economic and politically submissive to MNCs operational interests. Vulnerable states within the global south that experience the highest levels of inequality are chained to receiving MNCs on their requested terms and conditions as they risk business flying out to neighboring countries offering similar standardized prices in good and services . The paradoxical relationship between states and MNCs is seen in their useful exchange between labor/resources and economic stimulus respectively, yet continuously maintain antagonistic interests and incentives when fulfilling their end-goals. By using the SDGs as a lens to see how the UN balances such interests while protecting countries sovereignty, we see inherent contradictions in goal 8: “prompting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. Sub-target 8.2 dictates that higher economic productivity should be achieved through “diversification, technological upgrading and innovation”, while sub-target 8.3 incentivizes the advancing of policies oriented to “support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro, small and medium sized enterprises”. The dilemma lies in the perspective that certain developing countries that have yet to access their own true competitive advantage become overwhelmed by welcoming MNCs abroad, taking over certain markets domestically. The economic assumptions hanging on creative destruction is a strong one, yet when analyzing Brazil, Japan, and India’s holistic positive experience with import substitution industrialization, one may contest the appropriateness behind the time and place in which opening particular segments of the economy might be beneficial to completing such SDGs on an international scale through MNCs adoption. Understanding the implications that endowing chunks of domestic markets to MNCs can have in the fulfillment of other SDGs is crucial, as giving them the increasing oversight over states’ means of production may enhance its global interconnectedness, but often at the expense of other SDGs that are paramount to assuring the rightful provisions of environmental and human rights as seen in SDG 3 (good health and well-being), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), among more. State’s elite complacency with MNCs short-term economic fruit has demonstrated to have long-term repercussions in establishing nationwide opportunities. This, in turn, forces s state to jump phases of its proper self-development and steals entrepreneurs from the possibility of advancing their own ideas tailored to their own states and communities history, culture, and alternative preferences entrenched into communities .




Babic, Milan, et al. “States versus Corporations: Rethinking the Power of Business in International Politics.” The International Spectator, vol. 52, no. 4, 2017, pp. 20–43., doi:10.1080/03932729.2017.1389151.


“Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.” United Nations, United Nations, 2015,


Viederman, Stephen. “Multinational Corporations Are Incompatible with Sustainable Development.” Global Policy Forum, 23 June 1997,

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