In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Human Rights

  • Introduction
  • Books
  • Journals
  • History and Context

Management Human Rights
Michael Santoro, Florian Wettstein
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0023


Business and human rights have not traditionally been addressed or theorized in close connection to each other. Rather, human rights have been seen as the exclusive domain of the state, that is, as a legal or political concept with little relevance or implication for companies. This has changed dramatically in recent years. There is now a broad interdisciplinary and dynamic discussion on the potential human rights responsibilities of business. While a systematic debate on the issue can be traced back at least to the mid-1990s, contributions to this debate have increased substantially in the wake of Prof. John Ruggie’s appointment as the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on business and human rights in 2005. This bibliography attempts to structure this evolving debate and guide readers to the most relevant sources in the field. The debate has attracted contributions from a wide variety of disciplines and perspectives. This bibliography has been limited to contributions published in the management and business ethics literature; with a few exceptions, the legal literature has not been considered. Furthermore, and again with just a few exceptions, only contributions that explicitly refer to human rights in the context of business have been included. Articles that relate to or inform the debate on business and human rights—such as, for example, the discussion on corporate social responsibility or that on human rights in general—but lack the specific connection of both fields were not included. The authors gratefully acknowledge the research assistance of Rutgers University PhD student Akiko Shigemoto and a research grant from the Rutgers Business School Research Resources Committee.


Books exclusively on the subject of business and human rights are rare. This section has been limited to three books, which stand out as defining for the particular period of time in which they were published. Donaldson 1989 was published before a systematic debate on business and human rights developed. It is one of the earliest works in business ethics to systematically address the moral roots of international corporate responsibility, including responsibility for human rights, by employing a social contract theory similar to those employed by Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke to describe the origins of the modern state. Santoro 2000 was published in a time when business and human rights started to gain traction. It is one of the early works that deal thoroughly with the human rights issues connected to doing business in China. The “fair share” theory was one of the first attempts to define the scope and limits of corporate human rights responsibility. The book also had important implications for the broader discussion on doing business in countries with repressive governments. Wettstein 2009 represents the more recent debate on business and human rights. It is one of the very few works which develop a philosophical argument for corporate human rights responsibility from the ground up, clarifying its foundation(s) and nature as well as its extent and scope.

  • Donaldson, T. The Ethics of International Business. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

    This seminal work remains the touchstone for the current generation of international business ethics studies. It was the first book to broadly address international business ethics, including human rights, from a rigorous philosophical framework.

  • Santoro, M. A. Profits and Principles: Global Capitalism and Human Rights in China. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.

    This pathbreaking book was the first to apply a moral framework—the “fair share theory”—to business responsibility for human rights violations in China. Santoro also proposed a human rights “spin-off” theory positing a potentially positive role for responsible business practices in the development of democracy and human rights.

  • Wettstein, F. Multinational Corporations and Global Justice: Human Rights Obligations of a Quasi-Governmental Institution. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804762403.001.0001

    Wettstein’s work integrates the broad debates on global justice, corporate responsibility, and human rights into a unique and comprehensive theory of corporations’ human rights obligations. Based on an understanding of multinational companies as political actors, it argues for an extensive and proactive role of corporations in regard to the respect, protection, and realization of human rights.

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