Hidden Agendas: An Exploration of Corporate Front Groups as a Form of Non-market Strategy

Anecdotal evidence suggests that firms sometimes stray outside firm behavioral norms, engaging in strategies normally associated with civil society organizations. Because tactics like rallies and marches are not typical corporate activities, firms may form “corporate front groups” – organizations that appear to be independent civil society groups but that are actually industry supported – in order to pursue their non-market interests. In unveiling this phenomenon, this study offers an exploratory analysis that maps the various strategies firms use when acting in such a subversive manner. Because these subversive nonmarket strategies often result in detrimental societal outcomes, the phenomenon raises important ethical questions. By better understanding the nature of these under-explored firm strategies, this paper lays the groundwork for future investigations of the antecedents and outcomes associated with them.