If you’re campaigning against a company, success or failure will depend on the information at your disposal. Whether you want to pay its offices a visit, target directors and shareholders, or produce a hard-hitting leaflet, you will need to know how to do your research first.
Know what you want
Before you start, be clear about what kind of information you need. If you don’t think it through, you might spend hours gathering reams of information that’s very interesting but of no real use.
Look around first
Start with a quick search of the web and library catalogues to see what work other researchers and campaigners have already conducted on your target. Asking other informed people for tips and suggestions is always helpful. At this point, you are looking more for leads than actual information: publications, websites, contacts – note everything down, you’ll come back to it.
Structure your research
Prioritise your leads and draw up a research plan. Think about how much time and effort you want to spend on each area, and what you expect to get.
Organise your sources
Your sources will vary in reliability, whether they are Wikipedia entries or specialist libraries. Always question your sources – don’t simply accept what they say. Broadly speaking, sources of information about a company can be grouped into the following categories: the company itself (annual reports, accounts); industry sources (trade journals, business directories and databases); government sources (relevant departments, regulators, parliamentary questions and reports); and the media (The Financial Times can be particularly useful). Relevant trade unions and NGOs might also have useful information or leads.
Follow your leads
Always check the source of your information and follow it up. For example, if the source is a newspaper article, talk to the journalist. The information might be outdated by the time you’ve found it, so always double check it!
Whether you’re interviewing the company’s manager, staff or clients, you should always be prepared. Know your facts and what information you’re looking for (not that you always have to ask directly for it) as well as your interviewee’s background. Being polite, friendly and respectful will yield better results.
Use freedom of information laws
The Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations are powerful tools, allowing access to a vast range of information held by public authorities. Although many government agencies are reluctant to reveal information about companies to protect their ‘commercial confidentiality’, freedom of information requests are still useful. For more on how to use the laws and appeal against withheld information, see yrtk.org and cfoi.org.uk
Get a basic overview of the company
Whatever you’re planning to do with your research, it’s a good idea to have a basic overview of your target company. This will mostly comprise publicly available information: industry sectors, market share, financial assets, owners, subsidiaries and so on. If you intend to use this information, make sure it’s up to date as these things change a great deal.
Find the company’s details
These include the company’s addresses and contact details, directors, shareholders, clients and so on. Getting some of this information might be as easy as simply checking what the company has filed with Companies House – or it might not be.
Dig the dirt
Good places to start finding out about a company’s wrongdoings are activist news websites such as Indymedia. Individuals or NGOs such as the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and CND might also be helpful. There are also a few dedicated anti-corporate research groups, such as Corporate Watch and Multinational Monitor – check them out and ask if they know anything. If no one else has done any research on your target company, things will be more difficult to find. But you’ll often find bits of information that might lead to interesting discoveries once you pull them together. Some researchers go as far as ransacking companies’ rubbish bins, but be careful – it can be illegal!
Information on lots of companies can be found at www.corporatewatch.org.uk
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry