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

  • Introduction
  • The Business and Human Rights Debate as a Subset of Corporate Social Responsibility

Management Business and Human Rights
Florian Wettstein, Michael Santoro, Anita Ramasastry, Penelope Simons
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0188

Florian Wettstein, Michael Santoro, Anita Ramasastry, and Penelope Simons updated this article on February 26, 2020. It was originally written by Michael Santoro and Florian Wettstein, published on 27 March 2014. The original article can be found here.


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 view has changed dramatically in recent decades. 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 John Ruggie’s appointment as the United Nations Special Representative on Business and Human rights in 2005. This article structures this evolving debate and guides readers to the most relevant sources in the field. The debate has attracted contributions from a wide variety of disciplines and perspectives. This review is limited to contributions published in the broader management and business ethics literature and a selection of key contributions from the legal literature on the topic. Furthermore, with just a few exceptions, it includes only contributions that explicitly refer to human rights in the context of business. Articles that relate to or inform the debate on business and human rights, such as discussions on corporate social responsibility or on human rights in general, but lack the specific connection of both fields were not included.

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