Nearly 10 per cent of charities have used the Freedom of Information Act to request information from public bodies, according to a joint survey by NCVO and Ashridge Business School.
The legislation has already proved successful for the Campaign Against Arms Trade, which says its Clean Investment Campaign led to the announcement last week by London's School of Oriental and African Studies that it would sell all its shares in arms companies and consider an ethical investment policy.
And Friends of the Earth UK, a supporter of the Act, has an online 'freedom of information request generator', which turns supporters' questions into FoI inquiries.
The research, which questioned 170 directors and chief executives of voluntary and community organisations, found that 27 per cent of requests were for campaign activity, 20 per cent related to funding criteria and 7 per cent were for information about government relationships with companies.
"The Act will have a major impact on how business interacts with government," said lead author Matthew Gitsham. "Not only will it bring accountability to how companies lobby government, it could also reveal a few skeletons in the closet."