Scope: Expertise in International Business

International Business Society Management is the product of an ongoing research effort on the interaction between International Business strategies, regulation and societal change. Several research projects are under way, of which only a small part has already been published. These research projects are coordinated by Professor Rob van Tulder and headed by the SCOPE Expert Centre, located at the department of BusinessSociety Management at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM). Since its establishment in 1997, a main preoccupation of SCOPE has been to document the internationalization strategies of the largest (core) firms in the world. The SCOPE centre co-ordinates the research in areas of International Business-Society Management. The SCOPE database covers the internationalization strategies of two hundred of the world's largest enterprises and the Top 50 largest national enterprises of the: United States of America, Japan, France, United Kingdom, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland. The database is a pivotal project in a broader interdisciplinary project on "internationalization and competitive space". The research project and database are coordinated by the SCOPE. The SCOPE-database is intended to function as a tool for the researchers at the Erasmus University, plus a number of selected "linkage" projects that take place in collaboration with partner universities and institutes. These latter projects depart from a common selection of "core firms". Consequently, the internationalization strategies of the selection of firms are linked to other strategies of firms (e.g. R&D, Environmental strategies). The International Business Competence centre SCOPE collaborates with UNCTAD in the research for the annual World Investment Report, which receives always wide acclaim in the international media for its coverage of timely topics concerning transnational enterprises and topics of internationalization and development. An international research visitation committee in 2002 explicitly acclaimed SCOPE for its scientific performance, societal impact over the years and clear potential for the coming years.

Issues of International business

The world’s most controversial issues are also settled on the interface between (big) international business and society: environmental regulation, tax regimes, trade and investment regimes, standardisation, the UN Millennium goals (tackling poverty, malnourishment and lack of education), terrorism, the adequate provision of public goods (water, safety, electricity), codes of conduct. Fundamental research in these areas is always linked to applied research for concrete organisations. Most SCOPE reports on these issues are available online. The SCOPE expert centre also collaborates with other Dutch Universities in a joint effort to create sufficient intellectual mass in the area of ‘sustainable business and development cooperation’ ( Research projects have focussed on global commodity chains, NGO-business partnerships and transfer-pricing.
Detailed studies always focus on theory building and data collection. Recent studies have been published in the form of PhD theses on the following topics:
• The Greening of Black Gold -on the relationship between internationalisation and environment strategies (2005, dr. Susanne van de Wateringen, University of Amsterdam)
• Foreign Direct Investment and competition policy in China (2004, dr. Guoyong Liang)
• International business and regionalism (2004, dr. Alan Muller, with honours)
• Banking across borders (2004, dr. Alfred Slager, with honours)
• Working across borders (2003, dr. Douglas Van den Berghe)
• Global Sourcing strategies (2001, Dr. Michael Mol)
• Competitiveness and multinationals from small countries (2000, Dr. Robert Goedegebuure)
Most of these studies can be downloaded from the ERIM Series in Management website (

TNI databank. Since 1996, a joint databank by the SCOPE expert centre is sustained in collaboration with UNCTAD, the Geneva based United Nations organisation on Trade Aid and Development. This effort has resulted in the annual publication in the prestigious World Investment Reports of two widely quoted lists: (1) the world’s top 100 Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and (2) the Top50 TNCs from developing countries. The source of these data is then referred to as “Unctad/Erasmus University databank”. Internationalisation is measured by the Transnationality Index (TNI), a weighted measure of the internationalisation of sales, employment and assets. The overall ranking is based on the total size of foreign assets. The world’s largest transnationals stem from the Anglo-Saxon and the smaller countries. The developing world’s largest TNC from developing countries originally were only in the oil industry, but presently indicate the coming of age of Asia as a breeding ground for (future) multinationals. All reports are available on-line ( The leading multinationals in the world, generally represent a relatively stable group (as the illustrative table shows), but below the surface major turmoil can be registred. The largest TNCs from developing countries generally are more international than their developed countries’ counterparts. But the illustration also shows that the process of ‘globalization’ is not that clearcut and does not necessarily lead to ever increasing levels of internationalization of leading firms.

The world’s largest TNC

1996: General Electric (USA) (30.7)
1997: General Electric (USA) (33.1)
1998: General Electric (USA) (36.3)
1999: General Electric (USA) (36.7)
2000: Vodafone (UK) (81.4)
2001: Vodafone (UK) (83.2)
2002: General Electric (USA) (40.6)
2003: General Electic (USA) (43.2)

The developing world’s largest TNC

1996: Daewoo Corporation (Korea) (54.5)
1997: Petroleos de Venezuela (Ven.) (44.5)
1998: Petroleos de Venezuela (Ven) (23.7)
1999: Hutchison Whampoa (H.K/China) (38.0)
2000: Hutchison Whampoa (H.K./China) (50.3)
2001: Hutchison Whampoa (H.K./China) (44.1)
2002: Hutchison Whampoa (H.K./China) (71.1)
2003: Hutchison Whampoa (H.K./China) (71.4)

Source: UNCTAD, Erasmus University Database

One of the products of the SCOPE research is the Erasmus (S)coreboard of Core Companies (also avaible for download):

Authors: Rob van Tulder, Douglas van den Berghe, Alan Muller
Publisher: SCOPE, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam
Year: 2001

The Erasmus (S)coreboard of Core Companies documents the restructuring and internationalization strategies of a representative sample of the world's largest companies. The present (S)coreboard assesses the 'true face of globalization', exposing in particular the reality behind several major debates of the 1990s, including the myth of globalization, the fallacy of lean production/increased outsourcing, and the alleged diminished significance of 'Old Economy' players. The study shows that for some companies internationalization is not a prerequisite for economic survival, whereas for others is seems imperative. National origins, long dismissed by many, still matter. In addition, the (S)coreboard illustrates the continued importance of core companies for national economies, countering claims of increasing competition, downsizing and the 'vogue' of newcomer companies in the innovation arena. Finally, the present study makes first attempt at revealing the mechanisms behind regionalism: the European Union in the 1990s for instance has become the locus of non-European Core Company expansion, while at the same time a platform for extra-regional expansion by European Core Companies. By focusing on 'core companies' the firm-specific trends covered in this (S)coreboard can be linked to macro-economic trends as well. This study illustrates the usefulness of such an approach in an age of growing uncertainty.

Click here to download the full document (pdf)