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How To Do Company Research

"The Earth is not dying it is being killed. And those who are killing it have names and addresses." - Utah Phillips.

Most of this was nicked from Corporate Watch apparently - see for a more comprehensive guide including details on how to get lists of major company shareholders.


Important: check with other activist groups in case they've already done the work!! Start with the company's annual report-they will send it to you if you ask them nicely. If a non-PLC, look up the relevant business directories for structure, try Who Owns Whom for production info, try Kompass vol 1, market research guides and industry reports. Always note your sources to insure against libel.


As well as the business section, check out reference-look for Who's Who, the Directory of Associations and Professional Bodies, trade journals (e.g. Mining Journal, The Engineer), and local history books. If you can get into London, visit the City Business Library, Westminster Reference Library, or the British Library Business Info Service. Alternatively, get to your university library.


For leads and contacts, join an activist listserver, e.g. top info sites:,


Financial Times, Investor's Chronicle. Private Eye is good for leads but quoting is a libel risk! Find internal newsletters (e.g BP Today) for recent contract awards, new offices etc. careers offices sometimes have them. Look in Business Surveys' "Research Index", which covers most publications.


Find the red postal address directories in the library for locations, or MacMillan's Key British Enterprises. Companies House (in many city centres) will get you home addresses for 1, or a full company search for 3.50 (tel 01222 380 30) but you may be asked for a name and ID.


The annual report must declare any donations of over 200; for more call the Labour Research Dept (tel 0171 928 0621). For lobbying activity, try the Directory of Associations & Proff. Bodies. The register of Members' Interests should tell you who benefits from what.


Find this out in PR Week or Marketing, or the PR Consultancy Yearbook.


Once you have your basic profile, examine it for anything dodgy or interesting, and follow up Ask questions as...a journalist, a student writing a thesis, a job-hunter...pick a flattering angle the company (their community projects/ 'green' image-improving etc) to win confidence. Visit: see what lorries stop, look through windows, check rubbish bins, try walking straight in and being lost(!) Talk to employees. Get a job with the company, if you can stand it!


Always be friendly with accountants and secretaries. Look for enemies of the company. Interview company reps last, when you have a good case & it's harder for them to lie to you. Brush up on the jargon and background knowledge. Anticipate possible responses. Decide beforehand if you wish to leave your source friendly or hostile to you after an interview. Document your interviews in detail. Use open-ended questions, putting-at-ease questions. Note what your interviewee doesn't want to talk about. Respect off-the-record comments (use as leads only) - but convention is that "off-the-record" must be said BEFORE the comments are made, rather than in "oops, I shouldn't have said that"! -avoid offering o-t-r. Use an alias that you can elaborate on if necessary. Alter your memorable features (glasses/smoking etc). Use a callbox NOT outside your house. Back up your sources carefully. In writing use devices such as "according to", "allegedly" etc. Keep incriminating notes elsewhere.


You are limited only by your imagination (and your feelings about the possible consequences!). Things people have done before include: public-awareness raising on future developments, freephone calling, fax blockades, junkpost campaigns, targeting tenderers, shareholder-educating, site occupations, office occupations (a way to get more info too), work disruption, AGM disruption, getting media onto company dodginess and corruption, taking companies to court for false advertising and illegal operations.

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