UNSD & OECD use OpenCorporates’ data to help the world understand multinational enterprises

A new joint initiative by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is helping to improve the information available on the world’s 500 largest multinational enterprises (MNEs).

These major companies shape economies and societies, but the information they disclose varies according to where they are head-quartered. The Multinational Enterprise Information Platform aims to provide consistent and clear information about the structure of MNEs and their related information for the benefit of national statistical offices and wider society.

The initiative relies on OpenCorporates’ global legal-entity data to match names used by multinational companies and their subsidiaries to their official legal entities. In this blog, we’ll explore the role of transparent company data in this effort to improve the world’s understanding of these major companies.

Why understanding multinational enterprises is difficult

The accessibility of information corporations and their legal entities varies between jurisdictions. 

The primary source of this information is in companies’ annual reports and corporate accounts. But, for example, enterprises headquartered in the UK are required to declare all their subsidiaries, while US norms only require companies to declare “significant” subsidiaries. 

This limits the ability of national statistical offices, regulators, companies, researchers and the general public to understand the full extent of their activities – as we outlined in a previous blog on an OECD initiative with OpenCorporates.

“There is a huge information asymmetry,” says Graham Pilgrim, Head of Real-Time Data Analytics at the OECD. “We have seen national statistical offices thinking about the structure of a company in two completely different ways. Our initiative aims to provide information about these companies in a uniform way and make it publicly available”.

Collecting and standardising data on multinationals in a new resource

The Multinational Enterprise Information Platform (MEIP) brings together a wide range of data to create a consistent understanding of them.  It comprises two core registers:

  • The Global Register which covers the structure of the 500 largest MNEs by providing information about the organisation, subsidiaries, addresses and ownership structure where available as well as key identifiers used to uniquely identify these companies such as the OpenCorporates ID and Legal Entity Identifier (LEI).
  • The Digital Register provides information on the web domain presence of MNEs around the world.

This initiative draws on solely publicly available data sources to demonstrate connections and relationships between companies and their subsidiaries, and provides comparable core information in one place which can be leveraged using technology. Currently, the platform provides information on over 123k subsidiaries and 113k websites associated with the 500 largest MNE’s for the reference period of 31st December 2021.  

Ilaria Di Matteo, Chief of the Business Statistics Section of the UNSD, says that the key feature of this platform is to bring together information that is often scattered. MEIP  contains “a physical register of the largest multinationals and their subsidiaries and affiliates and a digital register to provide an insight on where companies operate digitally in the world”.

How OpenCorporates’ data helps

“OpenCorporates is one of the key information resources behind this initiative”, says Graham Pilgrim. “It provides a foundational layer against which the official legal entity of companies referred to in the different data sources can be validated.”

“It’s really important to the OECD and our dataset users that OpenCorporates provides provenance of the legal entity information it gathers from the official local company registers around the world — as well as making it publicly available and searchable within one place.”

In addition, the initiative looks at security certificates for websites to see which company has registered the website. But this will often require using an alternative name that doesn’t correspond to their official identifier in a business registry. This is also where OpenCorporates comes in — given that it also holds alternative names from registers that make them available. “We look for a company name and get an identifier back, which we can then use to match and determine who we think the likely company is”, Graham adds.

Benefits of the Multinational Enterprise Information Platform for national statistical offices and beyond

The initiative aims to help national statistical offices to gain greater insight into the multinational enterprises which operate in their jurisdiction while having their headquarters elsewhere. This information can help a statistical office gain a better understanding of the role of foreign direct investment in their country, but also to be aware of how large corporate restructurings may impact their economy. 

These assessments are of critical importance to a country, which is why being able to match company names in the data sources back to the official legal entity in OpenCorporates is so valuable.

Excitingly, the initiative also helps a wide range of individuals and organisations who want to know more about a multinational enterprise they are buying from, working for, or doing business with. 

That includes:

  • Researchers who are looking at how supply chains are interlinked and the role of multinationals.
  • Anyone trying to understand the sustainability record of a multinational company – because the record of its subsidiaries also needs to be considered.

You can explore the Multinational Enterprise Information Platform for yourself here: https://bit.ly/mne-platform and https://unstats.un.org/unsd/business-stat/mne-platform/.

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