The Shahidi Project is an investigative and monitoring initiative on how corporate power influences society. Our goal is to facilitate an open platform for communities, citizens, researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders to promote transparency and accountability in decisions over social and public goods, and to scrutinize and challenge corporate power.
The power of corporations lies in their ability to influence and direct policy, research, consumption, and social behavior to boost their bottom line of maximizing profits at all costs. Oftentimes, these corporations use their leverage over the political system to control commodity and agricultural markets and food prices, which give them immense power within and beyond the food system. Corporate power has contributed to aggressive environmental degradation, erasure of local ecologies and knowledge, dispossession of land among small farmers and rural agricultural workers, and countless food-related health challenges that resulted from diets high in sugar and fat from processed food and beverages.
Specifically, corporations secure their power by, firstly, influencing and controlling the production, processing, distribution, and service of food commodities; and with commodity support programs, crop insurance, labor regimes, and international food aid being most grievous sites of corporate power. Secondly, corporations exert and secure their power by influencing higher education (vis-à-vis private funding of research and development), lobbying efforts on food policies, corporate mergers, and the “revolving door” between corporate employees and government officials. The Shahidi Project aims to investigate these major spheres within which corporate power remains particularly salient and impedes social progress. Thus, the goals and objectives of the Shahidi Project are the following:
- Raise societal awareness about the misalignment of corporations and their immense power they exerted within and beyond the food system.
- Develop new narratives, posit viable alternatives, and create of toolkits and other materials for community stakeholders, researchers, and policymakers who are concerned with the future of our social and public goods, democratic institutions, and the well-being of our economic, environmental, and health systems.
- Explicate a strong analysis of the different expressions and broader implications of corporate power within and beyond the food system.
- Map major lobbies, institutions, and policy instruments that facilitate and reinforce corporate power across impacted sectors and geographies.
The data on this site comes from multiple sources, including but not limited to FOIA.gov, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC Fillings), USASpending.gov, OpenSecrets, Glassdoor, Guidestar, OneSource, Hoovers Online, academic and research publications, targeted corporation websites, and other online databases.
Please note that while substantial efforts are made to ensure accuracy, the Shahidi Project cannot guarantee the precision of the data presented on this website. The information is inherently subject to change without notice and may become outdated. As such, we invite comments on the accuracy of data displayed and future updates.
Only records and fields that have been subjected to the error-checking process as described in the methodology are publicly available on this website. The error-checking process has confirmed that data in the Shahidi website are correct according to the sources given for each record. While the researchers placed a great deal of effort to ensure that all errors are identified and corrected, some may still remain due to human error, source error or changing circumstances.
The representation of facts and interpretations expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinions of Haas Institute donors or its supporters. We welcome and encourage the submission of any information that can help improve the accuracy of our database.
Due to the contrast of readily available public information about major food corporations, and the status of existing and potential corporate maneuvers and mergers, the assemblage of secondary sources are more widely used over primary sources on this site. Several strategies are being used to enable the collection of data and establishment of our database:
We collect data from several websites, including SEC filings and other public records, to build a comprehensive table of subsidiaries, entities, and corporate brands to generate vigorous understanding and robust data collection framework to investigate targeted corporations.
To capture a cross-section of corporate food-related activities, we have identified four major roles within the food system: primary, intermediary, retail, and service corporations.
We selected a sample of 10 major food industry leaders which spans these four roles that included: Bunge, Cargill, Carrefour, McDonald’s, Monsanto, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Syngenta, Walmart, and Yum! Brands.
We developed database tools to streamline, catalog, and index disparate information about corporate influence and control of social and public goods.
We have established a database framework to capture and store the following information about the targeted corporations: internal structure; type of industries; web of influence and lobbying within the US Congress and federal government; contracts with federal agencies; financial contributions to research and development in higher education; scale and geographies of operations; products and brands; and corporate control of the seed industry.
We obtained several FOIA documents that contain communication between the targeted corporations and federal agencies, such as the USDA and US Food & Drug Administration, that reference branding, and marketing. From these, we identified public/private partnerships with targeted corporations to see if (and how) members of the US Congress and/or the federal government are involved in PR campaigns and other tactics that advance corporate interests such as branding and marketing.
Data is increasingly collected and cross-referenced through a decentralized team of lead researchers, research assistants, and database experts.
Finally, we created the database on targeted corporations’ activities within the national and global food systems, in which we identify, obtain, clean, code and analyze datasets and documents. All data and documents were formatted for an interactive, searchable web platform, and for the internal use of the project.
Nadia Barhoum and Elsadig Elsheikh
We’re grateful for the contributions of many individuals, particularly, Magali Duque, Monica Elizondo, Isaac Heller, and James Huynh for research assistance.
This project would not have been possible without the generous support of the Food and Farm Communications Fund, which provided the seed funding for the Shahidi Project. Additional gratitude to Ford Foundation and Kellogg Foundation for their substantial support of this project.
Shahidi: Corporations Decoded. Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley, CA. April 2018. https://belonging.berkeley.edu/global-justice/glocal-food-systems/shahi….