In This Article Business and Human Rights

Management Business and Human Rights
by
Florian Wettstein, Michael Santoro, Anita Ramasastry, Penelope Simons
  • 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.

Introduction

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.

Monographs and Edited Collections

Monographs exclusively on the particular subject of BHR have been rare, but with the expansion of the field, particularly since 2011, when the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were adopted, the number of such contributions has grown. This section will be limited to a small number of monographs and edited collections that, in our view, stand out as defining for the particular eras in which they were published. These works span the period leading up to the BHR debate, the beginning of the debate, and the peak of the debate.

Business and Human Rights: Precursor of the Debate

Although the systematic debate on BHR did not develop until the early 2000s, by this time scholars had already begun to ask questions about corporate human rights obligations for several years. Donaldson 1989 was one of the first works to raise the question of whether home country standards should be applied to business interests in countries with lower standards of living. This work is an example of preliminary BHR scholarship that helped shape what would later become the core concerns of the field.

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

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    This is one of the earliest works in business ethics to systematically address the moral roots of corporate responsibility for human rights by employing a social contract theory similar to that employed by Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke to describe the origins of the modern state. Donaldson identifies general and specific international rights and proposes a moral algorithm to help corporate managers with multinational interests navigate the differences in home and host standards.

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Business and Human Rights: The Beginning of the Debate

With globalization gaining momentum in the first decade of the 21st-first century, more scholars began to grapple with the ethical dilemmas inherent to an increasingly international marketplace. Books such as Santoro 2000, published when BHR was beginning to gain traction, address the corporate responsibilities of doing business in countries with a record of human rights abuses. Jägers 2002 calls for a reexamination of human rights obligations that would shift responsibility from individual states to corporations, and, along with Joseph 2004, explores the effectiveness of civil litigation to enforce such obligations. Clapham 2006 extends the discussion of human rights obligations to include not just corporations, but also nonstate actors such as international organizations like the World Bank and terrorist groups. Wider discussions of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement also began to appear during the preliminary period of BHR. Zerk 2006 argues that barriers to CSR regulation of multinational companies are primarily political rather than legal.

  • Clapham, A. Human Rights Obligations of Non-state Actors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199288465.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This work provides a thorough analysis of international human rights law and its application to a variety of nonstate actors, including corporations, international organizations, and terrorist and armed opposition groups. Methods for imposing legal accountability on such entities are discussed, as well as the question of whether focusing on nonstate groups can be harmful when it distracts from state-level human rights violations.

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  • Jägers, N. Corporate Human Rights Obligations: In Search of Accountability. Antwerp, Belgium: Intersentia, 2002.

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    This is one of the first monographs in the legal literature to put forward conceptual and legal arguments supporting the idea that corporations have legal obligations under international human rights law. Positing that due to globalization, corporations may in some cases have a greater impact on human rights than individual States, Jägers asks which human rights obligations corporations can be expected to fulfill, and whether such obligations are enforceable.

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  • Joseph, S. Corporations and Transnational Human Rights Litigation. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2004.

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    Joseph provides one of the first comprehensive examinations of the effectiveness of civil litigation as a means of holding multinational corporations (MNCs) liable for transnational violations of human rights. It provides invaluable reading on the early cases brought mainly, but not exclusively, in the US courts under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The author also offers insight into the unique role trade practices law has played in holding MNCs accountable.

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

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    This is one of the early works that deal comprehensively with the human rights issues connected to doing business in China. Santoro’s “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 broader discussions on doing business in countries with repressive governments.

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  • Zerk, J. A. Multinationals and Corporate Social Responsibility: Limitations and Opportunities in International Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511494864Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This early and important contribution to the business and human rights literature examines the history of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement, as well as state practice with respect to CSR, and the challenges of, and opportunities for, regulating the social and environmental impacts of multinational corporate activity. Zerk argues that international law is better equipped to regulate CSR than is widely assumed.

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Business and Human Rights: Peak of the Debate

By the end of the 2000s, BHR studies had begun to proliferate and cross-pollinate across disciplines, particularly with the passage of the United Nations “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework and Guiding Principles in 2008. Wettstein 2009 explores the transforming responsibilities of multinational organizations, weaving together arguments from global justice, human rights, and CSR perspectives. Deva and Bilchitz 2013 evaluates the UN documents themselves, including how they were created, the nature of the human rights obligations they outline, and their strengths and limitations. Ruggie 2013, composed by the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, offers an inside look at how he arrived at the CSR guidelines, or “Ruggie Rules.” Karp 2014 assigns responsibilities for human rights to actors that can be considered “public,” noting that this category does not map exactly to state or nonstate categories. Simons and Macklin 2014 prioritizes home state regulation as key to preventing corporate human rights abuse. Works such as Baumann-Pauly and Nolan 2016 focus on the practical implications of implementing the UN Guidelines in countries where human rights have not previously been protected. Looking forward, Deva and Bilchitz 2017 addresses calls for an international treaty to clarify global human rights obligations, including draft provisions for such a treaty.

  • Baumann-Pauly, D., and J. Nolan, eds. Business and Human Rights: From Principles to Practice. London: Routledge, 2016.

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    This is the first attempt at a comprehensive edited volume on the BHR debate. Focusing on the implementation of BHR guidelines, interdisciplinary contributions explore the various challenges corporations face with enforcements, standards specific to various industries, mechanisms for enforcement, and rights-related issues likely to arise in the future. Contributors supply case studies to illustrate their arguments.

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  • Deva, S., and D. Bilchitz, eds. Human Rights Obligations of Business: Beyond the Corporate Responsibility to Respect? Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

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    Deva and Bilchitz bring together a wide variety of well-known business and human rights scholars to engage in a comprehensive critical evaluation of the “Respect, Protect, and Remedy” Framework and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, developed by UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights John Ruggie. Contributions focus on the process of creating these documents, the nature of corporate human rights obligations, and methods for implementing and enforcing them.

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  • Deva, S., and D. Bilchitz, eds. Building a Treaty on Business and Human Rights: Context and Contours. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

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    This collection responds to the calls for an international treaty that would clarify the human rights obligations of multinational corporations. Contributors address the potential scope of such a treaty, the obligations of state and corporate bodies, and ways to strengthen victim protections. The book also contains draft provisions for an international treaty that might succeed where other accountability efforts have failed.

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  • Karp, D. J. Responsibility for Human Rights: Transnational Corporations in Imperfect States. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139795418Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book assigns human rights responsibilities to global public actors based on criteria associated with legalism, universalism, capacity, and publicness. Drawing from recent events in the realm of BHR, including recent rights abuses by corporations, Karp argues that publicness and privateness do not neatly correspond to state and nonstate categories. Karp also examines the relationship between sovereignty and human rights.

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  • Ruggie, J. G. Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights. New York: W. W. Norton, 2013.

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    This book, written by the author of the UN’s “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework and Guiding Principles, details the challenges he experienced when drafting these documents. Ruggie explains how identifying the main issues related to responsible global corporate practices required him to look past dominant conceptions of BHR and take a fresh approach. He notes that establishing the right team and witnessing the failings of CSR firsthand were essential to the success of the documents.

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  • Simons, P., and A. Macklin. The Governance Gap: Extractive Industries, Human Rights, and the Home State Advantage. London: Routledge, 2014.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203417256Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is one of the first books to systematically examine the need for home state regulation of transnational corporations. The authors argue that such regulatory oversight is a crucial component of any strategy to tackle transnational corporate human rights abuse and they put forward a novel proposal for a comprehensive adaptable framework for domestic regulation.

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

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    Representing the more recent debate on business and human rights, this is one of the very few works that develop philosophical arguments for CSR responsibility from the ground up, clarifying its foundation(s), its nature, and its extent and scope. Wettstein marshals insights from global justice, human rights, and CSR scholarship to move beyond general, surface-level notions of global corporate responsibility to offer specific measures for accountability.

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Relevant Journals in Business and Human Rights

In addition to academic journals specifically focused on business and human rights, this section presents a selection of journals in the broader management-related fields with a particular emphasis on business ethics, which have frequently published articles relevant to the business and human rights debate. The selection focuses primarily on journals that have published special issues on the subject.

Journals Specifically Devoted to Business and Human Rights

The Business and Human Rights Journal (BHRJ) and Homa Publica: Revista Internacional de Dereitos Humanas e Empresas publish interdisciplinary scholarship on a wide range of issues concerning the intersection of global business and human rights.

Selected Journals with Published Special Issues on Business and Human Rights

The variety of journals that have published special issues on business and human rights reveals the interdisciplinary nature of BHR concerns. Business Ethics Quarterly (BEQ) includes essays on corporate ethics, social responsibility, and sustainability from a range of disciplines. Cragg, et al. 2012, a special issue of the journal, begins with a summary of the history of the BHR debate and scholarship and includes a series of essays on timely issues in the field. It covers a variety of BHR issues, in particular whether human rights measures should be voluntary or mandatory for corporations. McPhail and McKernan 2011 aims to call attention to the role of accounting practices in negative corporate behavior, with essays that offer insights on how to better understand and improve such practices. The special issue focuses, in particular, on the connection between accounting and BHR. Connolly and Kaisershot 2015 includes essays, literature reviews, review essays, and forums on “human rights and the law, race, religion, gender, children, class, refugees and immigration,” as well as war crimes, torture, and genocide. The special issue explores scholarship on human rights across multinational industries. Aiming to bring new discourse to the BHR field from various disciplines, the Journal of Business Ethics invites articles that take a broad definition of both business and ethics. Whelan, et al. 2009, a supplement in a special issue of the journal, includes discussions of pressing BHR concerns from both general and specific lenses. Also inviting a wide range of perspectives and disciplines, the Journal of Human Rights seeks to question existing human rights mindsets and develop new mindsets and approaches to human rights. Santoro 2015, a special issue of the journal, provides an overview of the current state of BHR and includes contributions representing the field’s most critical debates. The journal of the politics and ethics research center Politeia, Notizie die Politeia, publishes articles in English and Italian from social science disciplines, including practical ethics, law, economics, and social science. D’Orazio 2012, a special issue of the journal, focuses, in particular, on issues of corporate responsibility and accountability in BHR. Finally, Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensethik (Journal for Business, Economics, and Ethics), published in German and English, is published primarily for a scientific audience, but it is relevant to many other fields as well. Breuer, et al. 2005, a special issue of the journal, treats human rights and business. Essays in Human Rights Quarterly (cited under Selected Other Journals That Have Contributed to the Business and Human Rights Debate) overlap with BHR concerns due to their focus on human rights, particularly as related to policy developed by the UN and other human rights organizations.

Selected Other Journals That Have Contributed to the Business and Human Rights Debate

Another subset of journals can be viewed as contributing to the debate, although it is not their primary focus. Business and Society explores the relationship between societal issues and business. Some essay topics in the BHR and CSR realm include Chinese-owned businesses and human rights and the transition from contract responsibility to full producer responsibility. In a similar vein, Business and Society Review publishes essays that deal with the intersection of business, society, and the public good. Business Ethics: A European Review (BEER) publishes scholarship relating to business ethics and business society relationships, including CSP.

Business and Human Rights: History and Context

The changing context of doing business within the post­–Cold War global economy and the increasingly limited reach and effectiveness of traditional domestic human rights policies started to raise questions about the human rights responsibilities of nonstate actors, and particularly of businesses. The actions of Shell Oil in Nigeria, Levi Strauss in China, and Kathy Lee Gifford in Central America, among others, were early watershed experiences informing many of the early scholarly works addressing business and human rights. Each business and human rights scandal emerging in the 1990s helped reinforce the idea that the economic interests of companies do not always align with the human rights claims of people. The postwar global economic paradigm—based on free markets, profit-maximization of businesses, and the state as the sole responsibility-bearer for human rights—has come under considerable scrutiny in recent years. Interestingly, the evolution of the debate about business and human rights (BHR) during the 1990s occurred separately from but parallel to the more established debate on corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Business and Human Rights – The Evolution of a New Debate

Traditionally, human rights have been seen as the business of governments rather than of corporations. However, as noted in Avery 2000, this started to change during the 1990s. Spar 1998 is one of the first studies to address the human rights obligations of specific corporations. Chandler 2003 identifies the crucial role of nongovernmental organizations as another important theme throughout much of the early work. Santoro 2015 defines the academic field of BHR as inherently multidisciplinary and often interdisciplinary. Finally, as Brenkert 2016 explores, the evolving business and human rights debate results from the new challenges and questions raised by late-20th-century globalization.

  • Avery, C. L. Business and Human Rights in a Time of Change. London: Amnesty International UK, 2000.

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    Avery’s book documents the changing perception that started to take hold during the late 1990s regarding the importance of human rights in business. Triggered by the controversy surrounding Shell’s engagement in Nigeria in 1995, the public called on businesses to become more proactive in addressing human rights. Avery describes the human rights policies of corporate pioneers and provides a useful listing of seminal reports on the topic.

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  • Brenkert, G. “Business Ethics and Human Rights: An Overview.” Business and Human Rights Journal 1.2 (2016): 277–306.

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    Brenkert traces the development of a diverse movement that seeks to extend the accountability for human rights to businesses. The article explores the responses of business ethicists to this movement. First, they have tried to formulate the general terms or frameworks for the discussion. Second, they have sought to answer several key questions that these different frameworks pose, including how the specific human rights responsibilities of business may be determined.

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  • Chandler, G. “The Evolution of the Business and Human Rights Debate.” In Business and Human Rights: Dilemmas and Solutions. Edited by R. Sullivan, 22–32. Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf, 2003.

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    This short overview describes the context in which companies came face to face with human rights. It emphasizes the role and activities of NGOs in moving the issue forward. It outlines the development in business and human rights from the collapse of the Soviet regime to Shell’s disaster in Nigeria to the subsequent initiatives of NGOs and their effect on corporate policy.

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  • Santoro, M. “Business and Human Rights in Historical Perspective.” Journal of Human Rights 14.2 (2015): 155–161.

    DOI: 10.1080/14754835.2015.1025945Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article defines BHR as a multidisciplinary and sometimes interdisciplinary academic field that draws from fields including business ethics, law, the social sciences, and a social, economic and political justice movement that involves governments, indigenous peoples, nongovernmental organizations, and other civil society actors.

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  • Spar, D. L. “The Spotlight and the Bottom Line: How Multinationals Export Human Rights.” Foreign Affairs 77.2 (1998): 7–12.

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    Spar describes how, due to sustained human rights activism by NGOs against US-based brands such as Kathie Lee Gifford, Nike, Reebok, and Disney; sharper media scrutiny; and increased circulation of information, US corporations find it harder to maintain a “hands-off” policy toward foreign suppliers. Under the pressure of the “spotlight,” he argues, multinationals are beginning to accept responsibility for the labor practices and human rights abuses of their foreign subcontractors.

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Business and Human Rights in the Context of Globalization and Neoliberalism

Since globalization and neoliberalism are two of the key factors accelerating the need for clear international human rights guidelines, they are the focus of many works of BHR scholarship. Cassel 2001 examines the role of free markets and the underlying social contract between business and society. Cragg 2000 has called for a new social contract assigning human rights responsibility to the business community as well.

  • Cassel, D. “Human Rights and Business Responsibilities in the Global Marketplace.” Business Ethics Quarterly 11.2 (2001): 261–274.

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    Cassel describes the emergence of business and human rights controversies in the context of late-20th-century globalization. The article argues that neither governments alone (communist ideology) nor free markets alone (neoliberal ideology) can completely fulfill human rights. What is needed is a combination of the two: a market economy embedded in a strong juridical framework that places capitalism at the service of human freedom.

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  • Cragg, W. “Human Rights and Business Ethics: Fashioning a New Social Contract.” Journal of Business Ethics 27.1–2 (2000): 205–214.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1006488202305Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cragg argues that the traditional distribution of responsibilities between governments as human rights protectors and companies as profit maximizers is no longer viable. He ties the evolution of the BHR debate to the renewal of a tacit social contract that determines the distribution of responsibility between businesses and governments. Such a distribution of responsibility, he argues, must be more in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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

Other scholarship takes as its starting point the distinction between the more recent BHR debate and the CSR debate, which originated as early as the mid-20th century. Tracing the impact of the UN’s BHR agenda, McPhail and Adams 2016 focuses on the accountability of companies in specific industries. Wettstein 2012, Wettstein 2016, and Ramasastry 2015 argue for a closer integration of the newer BHR and more established CSR debates. Wettstein 2012 and Ramasastry 2015 also explore the two debates from a legal perspective.

  • McPhail, K., and C. Adams. “Corporate Respect for Human Rights: Meaning, Scope, and the Shifting Order of Discourse.” Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal 29.4 (2016): 650–678.

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    This paper explores how respect for human rights is emerging and being operationalized in the discourse of thirty Fortune 500 companies in the mining, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries at two key points in the recent evolution of the United Nation’s BHR agenda. Specifically, McPhail and Adams explore the scope of rights for which corporations are accountable and, more specifically, the degree of responsibility a company assumes for enacting these rights.

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  • Ramasastry, A. “Corporate Social Responsibility versus Business and Human Rights: Bridging the Gap between Responsibility and Accountability.” Journal of Human Rights 14.2 (2015): 237–259.

    DOI: 10.1080/14754835.2015.1037953Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ramasastry explores the evolution of BHR from a lawyer’s perspective and examines how it differs contextually and conceptually from CSR in its aims and ambitions due to its quest for accountability. The author argues that BHR can draw from CSR to allow states to create incentives for businesses to promote human rights in their operations.

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  • Wettstein, F. “CSR and the Debate on Business and Human Rights: Bridging the Great Divide.” Business Ethics Quarterly 22.4 (2012): 739–770.

    DOI: 10.5840/beq201222446Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Wettstein summarizes and structures the business and human rights debate up to the current state with an emphasis on the divide between legal and nonlegal perspectives in and on the discussion. Of particular interest is the intersection of the business and human rights debate with the broader and more conventional discussion on corporate social responsibility.

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  • Wettstein, F. “From Side Show to Main Act: Can Business and Human Rights Save Corporate Responsibility?” In Business and Human Rights: From Principles to Practice. Edited by D. Baumann-Pauly and J. Nolan, 78–87. New York: Routledge, 2016.

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    Wettstein reflects on the rise of business and human rights against the backdrop of existing conceptions of corporate social responsibility, on their differences and commonalities, and on the potential for the closer integration of the two.

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Foundations of Corporate Human Rights Responsibility

This section addresses the theories and approaches used to ground the human rights responsibilities of business. It focuses not on the foundations of human rights in general, but on the justification specifically of corporate responsibility rooted in human rights. To a degree, this shortcoming is characteristic of the nascent business and human rights debate in general. While they have adequately outlined the new context in which questions of business and human rights emerge, they have so far failed to provide a convincing normative grounding for respective corporate responsibilities. Similar criticism has recently been voiced also against the framework of UN Special Representative John Ruggie. While the claims raised in Ruggie’s framework may be correct, as some argue, it is fundamentally lacking a moral foundation. Much criticism has also emerged about the alleged voluntariness of corporate human rights responsibility. The question, from an ethical point of view, is perhaps not so much whether or not companies have direct human rights responsibilities, but rather how far such responsibilities go. From a moral point of view, it seems rather uncontested that corporations should be required to avoid harming fundamental human rights. What is being debated more frequently is whether corporations have an obligation to actively work toward protecting such rights. Increased attention has been given to this issue in the past few years, and different arguments for such an extension of corporate human rights responsibility have been proposed.

Foundations (or Lack Thereof) of Business and Human Rights

To address the current state of BHR, many authors have begun with an exploration of foundational frameworks. Donaldson and Dunfee 1999 explores the widely influential model of corporate human rights responsibility known as Integrated Social Contracts Theory, which is based on a social contracts approach to business ethics. Clapham 2006, on the other hand, argues that multinational corporations are bound directly and indirectly by international human rights law. Mayer 2009 argues that UN initiatives concerned with business and human rights lack theoretical and normative foundations and subsequently blur the line between legal and nonlegal categories. Santoro 2010 offers an analysis of the works of post-Westphalian business ethicists that points to a similar lack of normative foundation. Based on the critique of Ruggie’s instrumental focus, Cragg 2010 offers a “hybrid” model of morally grounded corporate human rights obligations. A moral perspective, Cragg 2012 argues, would be more convincing not only intellectually, but also pragmatically. Finally, stating that status egalitarianism is key to human rights, Hsieh 2015 argues against assigning human rights obligations to multinational corporations.

  • Clapham, A. Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199288465.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book provides a comprehensive assessment of the application of international human rights law to nonstate actors. Clapham analyzes a range of intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder initiatives applicable to corporate activity, the rules of state responsibility, the role of treaties, customary international law obligations, and US civil suits to enforce violations of international human rights law. He concludes that corporations already have a range of direct and indirect obligations under international human rights law.

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  • Cragg, W. “Business and Human Rights: A Principle and Value-Based Analysis.” In The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics. Edited by G. G. Brenkert and T. L. Beauchamp, 267–304. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Cragg assesses the character and scope of morally grounded human rights obligations of corporations, examining the shortcomings of three contemporary models. He develops a fourth “hybrid” model, which depicts the scope and character of corporate human rights obligations as a function of the corporation’s social, cultural, political, legal, environmental, and economic settings, as well as the actual or potential human rights impact of its business operations.

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  • Cragg, W. “Ethics, Enlightened Self-Interest, and the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights: A Critical Look at the Justificatory Foundations of the UN Framework.” Business Ethics Quarterly 22.1 (2012): 9–36.

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    Cragg criticizes John Ruggie for grounding corporate human rights responsibility in corporate self-interest. In Cragg’s view, enlightened self-interest cannot sustain the human rights agenda against competing business imperatives. Therefore, only an ethical grounding can justify building human rights responsibilities strategically into the management of corporations. Of particular value are his elaborations on the moral analogy between states and corporations as a foundation for the extension of human rights responsibility to corporations.

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  • Donaldson, T., and T. Dunfee. Ties That Bind: A Social Contracts Approach to Business Ethics. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 1999.

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    Donaldson and Dunfee borrow from classic social contracts theory such as that articulated by Rousseau, Locke, and Rawls to construct a broad and influential theory of ethical responsibility for business, the Integrated Social Contracts Theory. They argue that local norms must not conflict with “hypernorms”—cross-culturally demonstrated moral principles such as human rights.

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  • Hsieh, N. “Should Business Have Human Rights Obligations?” Journal of Human Rights 14.2 (2015): 218–236.

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    Hsieh argues that we should resist assigning human rights obligations to businesses. Following Buchanan’s The Heart of Human Rights (2013), he views the ideal of status egalitarianism as central to human rights. To assign human rights obligations to multinational enterprises (MNEs), Hsieh argues, risks undermining this ideal. Hsieh situates this argument in relation to the UN’s “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework by discussing how MNEs can be complicit in state failures to protect citizens.

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  • Mayer, A. E. “Human Rights as a Dimension of CSR: The Blurred Line between Legal and Non-legal Categories.” Journal of Business Ethics 88 (2009): 561–577.

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    Mayer argues that many UN initiatives on BHR have emerged as ad hoc responses to practical concerns. Accordingly, they lack a normative framework, which leads to a blurring of the line between legal and nonlegal categories. Mayer identifies a need to evaluate whether we have the grounds for an overarching theory of corporate human rights responsibilities. This includes discerning whether these responsibilities should be deemed to have a legal or ethical character—or both.

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  • Santoro, M. A. “Post-Westphalia and Its Discontents: Business, Globalization, and Human Rights in Political and Moral Perspective.” Business Ethics Quarterly 20.2 (2010): 285–297.

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    This paper briefly summarizes the emerging debate on post-Westphalian business ethics and critiques its lack of moral foundation with regards to corporate human rights responsibility. Santoro’s “Fair Share Theory” then provides an account of corporate human rights responsibility that is grounded in moral theory rather than “merely” in political bargaining processes. The article is framed around Kobrin 2009 (cited under Soft-Law Initiatives and Their Enforcement Problem).

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Positive Human Rights Obligations of Business

A substantial body of scholarship has centered on whether multinational corporations have an obligation to actively prevent human rights violations. Ratner 2001 grounds corporate human rights obligations within international human rights law, and Sorell 2004 states that corporations must actively work to protect human rights, particularly in cases of urgent need. Steinhardt 2005 argues that various means of holding corporations accountable for human rights—including market mechanisms, domestic laws, civil litigation, and the proliferation of corporate and international codes or standards—may evolve into a set of hard laws over time. Wettstein 2009 states that corporations are duty bound to uphold human rights protections, in contrast to the historical view of CSR as voluntary in nature. Arnold 2010 finds a problematic lack of moral basis in Ruggie’s Framework, stating that political and strategic support for human rights is insufficient, and Bilchitz 2010 argues that the basis for positive human rights obligations is found within the legal nature of the corporation. The discussion on business and human rights, Arnold 2016 argues, must move beyond the voluntariness assumption commonly underlying conventional understandings of corporate social responsibility. Werhane 2016, on the other hand, addresses the question of whether corporations should be considered persons to consider whether they should be held actively accountable for protecting human rights. Finally, Wood 2012 builds its arguments for a corporate obligation to promote and protect human rights on leverage.

  • Arnold, D. “Transnational Corporations and the Duty to Respect Basic Human Rights.” Business Ethics Quarterly 20.3 (2010): 371–399.

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    Arnold criticizes the absence of ethical justification in the BHR debate and specifically in John Ruggie’s “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” framework. He shows why an exclusively political or strategic grounding cannot provide a sufficiently deep justification of the duty to respect human rights and thus why a moral grounding, based on an agentially based conception of basic human rights, is needed.

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  • Arnold, D. “Corporations and Human Rights Obligations.” Business and Human Rights Journal 1.2 (2016): 255–275.

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    This article synthesizes existing corporate human rights theory and responds to objections to the idea that transnational corporations (TNCs) have human rights obligations. Arnold explains why TNCs are properly understood as moral agents responsible for their policies and practices, reviews and explains different philosophical theories of corporate human rights obligations, and articulates and responds to objections to the idea that corporations have human rights obligations.

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  • Bilchitz, D. “Do Corporations Have Positive Fundamental Rights Obligations?” Theoria 57.125 (2010): 1–35.

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    Bilchitz finds the foundation for positive human rights obligations in the (legal) nature of the corporation, which, despite its commercial focus, is an agent integral to society and thus has to contribute to the realization of rights. He develops two arguments in favor of such duties. The first one is based on the Lockean proviso limiting private property and the second on the social perspective on the company that, according to Bilchitz, lawmakers must adopt.

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  • Ratner, S. R. “Corporations and Human Rights: A Theory of Legal Responsibility.” Yale Law Journal 111.3 (2001): 443–545.

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    Ratner argues that international law can and should impose human rights obligations directly on corporations. He develops a theory of legal obligation for these actors based on the relationship of the corporation to government, individuals and communities affected by its activities, the human right(s) at issue, and the place of the perpetrators within a corporation. He concludes by considering various means for implementing his theory.

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  • Sorell, T. “Business and Human Rights.” In Human Rights and the Moral Responsibilities of Corporate and Public Sector Organizations. Edited by T. Campbell and S. Miller, 129–143. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic, 2004.

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    Sorell argues that corporations have an obligation not only to respect human rights, but also to promote and protect them. The more urgent the needs of the people are, the more directly involved the corporation is in the violation of human rights, and the more relevant the rights at stake are to its business. Sorell argues that size, wealth, and power are not the sources of such responsibility, but merely instruments to discharge it.

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  • Steinhardt, R. “Corporate Responsibility and the International Law of Human Rights: The New Lex Mercatoria.” In Non-state Actors and Human Rights. Edited by P. Alston, 177–226. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Steinhardt evaluates four extant “regimes” for holding transnational corporations accountable for human rights abuses: market mechanisms, domestic laws, civil liability in domestic courts, and international standards and corporate codes. He considers and addresses a variety of objections to imposing enforceable human rights obligations on corporations. He goes on to argue that these four areas of soft and hard law, like the lex mercatoria that evolved over centuries from soft obligations into hard commercial law, could eventually yield a coherent set of binding obligations for corporations.

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  • Werhane, P. “Corporate Moral Agency and the Responsibility to Respect Human Rights in the UN Guiding Principles: Do Corporations Have Moral Rights?” Business and Human Rights Journal 1.1 (2016): 5–20.

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    In 2011 the UN published the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” which specify that for-profit corporations have human rights responsibilities. Do these responsibilities entail that corporations, too, have basic rights? Werhane argues that the contention that corporations are persons with a moral status equal to that of human agents is problematic. But as collective bodies created, operated, and perpetuated by human moral agents, one can ascribe to corporations secondary moral agency.

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  • Wettstein, F. “Beyond Voluntariness, Beyond CSR: Making a Case for Human Rights and Justice.” Business and Society Review 114.1 (2009): 125–152.

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    Wettstein grounds corporate human rights responsibilities as duties of justice and contrasts them with the conventional focus of CSR on voluntary responsibilities. As moral duties, human rights obligations do not fit well with the voluntariness assumption of CSR. Therefore, the article argues that in order to capture corporate human rights responsibilities adequately, we must move beyond traditional understandings of CSR.

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  • Wood, S. “The Case for Leverage-Based Corporate Human Rights Responsibility.” Business Ethics Quarterly 22.1 (2012): 63–98.

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    Wood provides a careful inquiry into the foundations and characteristics of leverage-based responsibility. He argues that under certain circumstances, companies have a positive responsibility to exercise leverage over other agents with whom they have a relationship in order to protect human rights even if they did nothing to contribute to the violation of those rights. In addition, the article analyzes the Sphere of Influence concept and the development of the ISO 26.000 standard.

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Issues and Challenges in Business and Human Rights

Many of the earliest works in the field of business and human rights focused almost exclusively on labor and employment rights. In the 1990s, due to the globalization of business and the fragmentation of supply and value chains, labor issues increasingly were approached systematically from a human rights perspective. Labor conditions in sweatshops have remained an important and consistent part of the business and human rights debate. Questions about the harms and benefits connected to sweatshops and child labor and the appropriate corporate responses to them are still hotly debated. Some scholars address the corporate systems that have allowed multiple forms of modern slavery to progress unchecked. Another early focus of the debate was the broad impact of foreign direct investment (FDI) on development and human rights. While some have argued in favor of a positive correlation between the presence of multinational companies and the advancement of human rights, others have adopted a more skeptical or nuanced perspective on the issue. Other scholars argue that the positive effects of FDI depend heavily on the receiving nation’s domestic human rights infrastructure. Some, however, detail a more complicated causal relationship between human-rights regimes and FDI. Others discuss the potential negative impact of loans by international financial institutions (IFIs) on labor rights. Despite the focus of many early works on labor rights violations and the broad negative consequences of investment flows, business and human rights issues include a broad spectrum of human rights questions commonly associated exclusively with the responsibility of governments. The responsibilities of multinationals for social and economic rights and, specifically, for the alleviation of poverty is one example of the broad human rights obligations some would stake out for multinational corporations. Pointing out that such rights are genuine human rights, some have argued that corporations have a duty at least not to infringe on such rights and possibly to contribute toward providing them, thereby drawing the sphere of responsibility decisively broader than those who limit corporate responsibilities to classical liberty rights. The effects of specific corporate practices—such as tax avoidance—on human rights are also explored. Another broad issue addressed in the literature concerns the responsibilities of multinationals operating in the context of conflict zones and authoritarian governments. Several authors have provided frameworks to facilitate company decisions or to categorize company engagements in such contexts. While some have called for disinvestment in such situations, others maintain that such contexts do not categorically call for withdrawal but may provide opportunities for businesses to contribute to the improvement of the situation. Some even argue for a business responsibility to promote just institutions as well as democratic reforms and the rule of law in such contexts. The issue naturally overlaps with questions of corporate complicity. However, due to the central nature of the complicity debate for the business and human rights field, we will address it more specifically in a separate section. The debate on business and human rights also overlaps with that on sustainable development. However, the link between the two may be more complicated than it first seems. However, especially under the banner of environmental justice, issues surrounding environmental degradation have increasingly been addressed in terms of human rights concerns in recent years.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Its Impact on Human Rights

The practice of foreign direct investment presents many ethical quandaries, as is demonstrated in the scholarship. Meyer 1996 aims to address a gap in the literature concerning the relationship between FDI and human rights outcomes. Smith, et al. 1999 advises for caution in attributing human rights improvements to FDI, arguing that such correlations are unclear. In contrast, Spar 1999 finds that FDI implemented correctly—with attention to human rights measures—tends to benefit developing countries. Santoro 2000 argues that the effects of FDI are two-pronged, presenting China as a microcosm of the positive and negative impacts of global capitalization on human rights. Dutta and Osei-Yeboah 2013 addresses the success level of FDI in various regions, arguing that FDI inflow is most successful in developing countries that already possess adequate human rights protections. Barry, et al. 2013 studies the reputational impact on nonstate actors of FDI in conflict areas. Blanton and Blanton 2015 claims that international financial institution (IFI) programs are detrimental to labor rights, and fail to adequately address women’s labor in particular. Last, Garriga 2016 looks at the effects of host countries’ involvement in human rights initiatives, arguing that FDI is enhanced when these countries’ reputation is boosted by participation in human rights efforts.

  • Barry, C. M., K. C. Clay, and M. E. Flynn. “Avoiding the Spotlight: Human Rights Shaming and Foreign Direct Investment.” International Studies Quarterly 57.3 (2013): 532–544.

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    Nonstate actors have attained an increasingly prominent role in modern world affairs. While previous research has focused on these actors’ respective interactions with states, little attention has been paid to their interactions with each other. Barry, Clay, and Flynn examine the extent to which the decisions of private actors seeking to invest abroad are affected by the reputational costs of doing business in countries publicly targeted by human rights activists.

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  • Blanton, R. G., and S. L. Blanton. “Is Foreign Direct Investment ‘Gender Blind’? Women’s Rights as a Determinant of US FDI.” Feminist Economics 21.4 (2015): 61–88.

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    Blanton and Blanton argue that international financial institution (IFI) programs, specifically recommended policy reforms, undermine collective labor rights, particularly for women. Using time-series cross-national data for a sample of 123 low- and middle-income countries from the years 1985 to 2002, their findings suggest that programs from IFIs are negatively and significantly related to labor rights, including laws designed to guarantee basic collective labor rights as well as the protection of these rights in practice.

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  • Dutta, A., and K. Osei-Yeboah. “A New Dimension to the Relationship between Foreign Direct Investment and Human Capital: The Role of Political and Civil Rights.” Journal of International Development 25.2 (2013): 160–179.

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    This paper shows that the interlinkages among FDI, human capital, and institutions play a very important role in explaining FDI inflows to developing countries. The results show that in the presence of good political rights and civil liberties, the association between human and FDI inflows is enhanced. Dutta and Osei-Yeboah demonstrate that the contribution of human capital will depend to a great extent on a nation’s institutional framework.

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  • Garriga, A. C. “Human Rights Regimes, Reputation, and Foreign Direct Investment.” International Studies Quarterly 60.1 (2016): 160–172.

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    Garriga argues that host country participation in human rights regimes provides a “reputational umbrella” for investors and therefore positively affects FDI. This effect proves stronger in countries with poor human rights records. Interestingly, investors appear not to punish human rights violations if the state is a party to many human rights regimes. The author’s findings help to disentangle reputational effects from other possible causal mechanisms.

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  • Meyer, William H. “Human Rights and MNCs: Theory versus Quantitative Analysis.” Human Rights Quarterly 18.2 (1996): 368–397.

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    Meyer argues that while the economic impact of multinational companies in developing countries is well documented, their role as a determinant of human rights has hardly been studied. He tries to empirically establish a positive link between foreign direct investment and human rights—that is, the presence of multinational companies and the advancement of political rights and civil liberties on the one hand, and of economic and social rights on the other.

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

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    Using China as an example of the effect of global capitalism on human rights, Santoro writes in chapter 2 about the “two faces of globalization”—the negative forces leading to sweatshops and the positive forces with potential for positive “human rights spinoff.”

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  • Smith, J., M. Bolyard, and A. Ippolito. “Human Rights and the Global Economy: A Response to Meyer.” Human Rights Quarterly 21.1 (1999): 207–219.

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    This response to Meyer’s thesis emphasizes that the relationship between human rights practice and the economic decisions of national and global actors is more complex than Meyer suggests. Thus, the correlation between FDI and human rights cannot be established without doubt. The authors criticize Meyer’s study on both theoretical and methodological grounds. Consequently, their own findings suggest little relationship between the levels of direct foreign investment in a country and its human rights record.

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  • Spar, D. L. “Foreign Investment and Human Rights.” Challenge 42.1 (1999): 55–80.

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    Spar argues against the tendency to deride FDI as a source of human rights violations in developing countries. She states that with the right attitude, multinationals can have a positive influence on the human rights situation in developing countries. The ever-increasing public pressure on multinationals and the respective danger of bad practices finding the public spotlight are key factors in Spar’s argumentation.

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Labor and Employment Conditions as Human Rights Issues

A series of works provide foundations for exploring labor and employment on a large scale. Werhane 1985 applies an analysis of basic moral rights to various aspects of employment, reflecting on the moral agency of corporations. Arnold 2003 argues that understanding the philosophy behind human rights can help multinational corporations address complicated issues of global labor practices and benefit workers. Santoro 2003 introduces an organizational integrity approach to global labor ethics that aims to find the root causes of human rights problems rather than merely identifying their symptoms. Last, Schrempf-Stirling and Palazzo 2016 argues that multinational corporations must take full producer responsibility for labor rights, in a shift from the previous standard of contract responsibility.

  • Arnold, D. G. “Human Rights and Business: An Ethical Analysis.” In Business and Human Rights: Dilemmas and Solutions. Edited by R. Sullivan, 69–81. Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf, 2003.

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    Arnold’s article aims to explain how an understanding of human rights can help multinational companies to produce morally innovative solutions to global labor challenges. It applies the right to freedom and well-being to the circumstances of global labor. By promoting these rights, Arnold argues, multinationals can have a positive impact on the welfare of workers in developing nations. The article contains helpful elaborations on the philosophical justification of human rights.

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  • Santoro, M. A. “Beyond Codes of Conduct and Monitoring: An Organizational Integrity Approach to Global Labor Practices.” Human Rights Quarterly 25.2 (2003): 407–424.

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    Santoro’s article offers guidance to companies seeking to enhance their human rights programs as they pertain to labor conditions. It proposes an organizational integrity approach that goes beyond mere compliance and monitoring. Thus, rather than merely identifying human rights problems, such an approach aims to tackle their root causes. The article offers best practice insights from leading companies in this regard.

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  • Schrempf-Stirling, J., and G. Palazzo. “Upstream Corporate Social Responsibility.” Business & Society 55.4 (2016): 491.

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    The debate about the appropriate standards for upstream CSR of MNCs has been on the public and academic agenda for some three decades. The debate originally focused narrowly on “contract responsibility” of MNCs for monitoring of upstream contractors for sweatshop working conditions violating employee rights. The authors argue that the MNC upstream responsibility debate has shifted qualitatively over time to “full producer responsibility” involving an expansion from “contract responsibility” in three distinct dimensions.

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  • Werhane, P. H. Persons, Rights, and Corporations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1985.

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    Basic moral rights, which Werhane essentially defines as human rights, are at the very core of this seminal book in the field of business ethics. Based on a thorough philosophical account of basic moral rights, the author applies them to employees and studies them in several dimensions of employment. Among them are employment at will, employee accountability, due process, freedom and privacy, safety, fair pay, participation and meaningful work, and the prima facie right not to be fired. The volume closes with a chapter on the institutionalization of moral agency in corporations.

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Sweatshops and Child Labor Controversy in Particular

A number of works explore corporate involvement in sweatshop and child labor. Arnold and Hartman 2006 claims that economic justifications for sweatshops are insufficient, arguing that both workers and corporations benefit when such labor practices are banned. In contrast, Zwolinski 2007 affirms that depriving foreign workers of the choice to engage in sweatshop labor by outlawing such practices undermines worker autonomy and choice.

  • Arnold, D. G., and L. P. Hartman. “Worker Rights and Low Wage Industrialization: How to Avoid Sweatshops.” Human Rights Quarterly 28.3 (2006): 676–700.

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    Economists tend to justify sweatshops as a means for economic development. Arnold and Hartman provide an overview of such claims and reject them based on labor rights arguments and the ethical obligations that derive from them for multinational companies. They argue that there are both ethical and strategic reasons for companies to embrace respective voluntary codes of conduct in order to improve global working conditions.

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  • Zwolinski, M. “Sweatshops, Choice, and Exploitation.” Business Ethics Quarterly 17.4 (2007): 689–727.

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    Zwolinski argues that sweatshop workers’ choices to accept their working conditions must be taken seriously as an expression of their autonomy and their preferences. Taking such choices seriously should lead us to abandon certain moral objections to sweatshops, particularly, as he argues, if such claims are based on the moral rights of workers. Based on this argument, for Zwolinski, all policies that effectively deprive workers of the choice of sweatshop work are illegitimate.

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Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

A set of studies demonstrate that despite corporations professing that they oppose forms of modern slavery and human trafficking, they may nevertheless be complicit in the perpetuation of such systems. Crane 2013 presents a model to expose corporate practices that support corrupt labor practices. Smith and Betts 2015 discusses ways for corporations to ensure that their operations and supply chains do not inadvertently support human trafficking.

  • Crane, A. “Modern Slavery as a Management Practice: Exploring the Conditions and Capabilities for Human Exploitation.” Academy of Management Review 38.1 (2013): 49–69.

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    Crane argues that although slavery is widely considered to be inhumane, modern slavery is flourishing worldwide as a management practice in the forms of “traditional slavery, bonded labor, human trafficking, and forced labor.” He notes that while some scholarly attention has been paid to the victims of modern slavery, the institutional systems that have perpetuated such conditions have largely been ignored in management literature. He presents a model to elucidate such systems.

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  • Smith, K. T., and T. Betts. “Your Company May Unwittingly Be Conducting Business with Human Traffickers: How Can You Prevent This?” Business Horizons 58.2 (2015): 225–234.

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    Even though companies may be against the idea of human trafficking, they may unwittingly be contributing to this problem through their business operations and relationships. However, companies can exercise social responsibility by using their influence over suppliers and business partners to prohibit human trafficking. This article examines the extent to which companies are involved in combating human trafficking, and suggests steps to help companies prevent human trafficking from occurring within company operations and supply chains.

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Poverty, Taxation, and Social and Economic Rights as Business Concerns

A series of scholarly works examines, in particular, rights related to economic and social systems. Archard 2004 considers the right to welfare an essential human right, thus arguing that corporations are obligated not to interfere with state-run welfare systems in countries where they do business. Nolan and Taylor 2009 asks whether corporations are obligated to merely respect or actively protect economic, social, and cultural human rights in countries where they operate, and whether they can be held accountable for human rights violations. Darcy 2016 uses Ireland as a case study to explore the ramifications of tax avoidance among multinational corporations.

  • Archard, D. “Welfare Rights as Human Rights and the Duties of Organisations.” In Human Rights and the Moral Responsibilities of Corporate and Public Sector Organisations. Edited by T. Campbell and S. Miller, 45–59. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic, 2004.

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    Archard provides a careful philosophical argument to conceive of welfare rights as human rights and responds to several objections against such a position. Thus understood, welfare rights impose obligations on companies to not violate them and to not act in ways that obstruct the state’s effort to discharge its duty to protect such rights. The range of corporate responsibilities increases significantly in the face of welfare rights understood as human rights.

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  • Darcy, S. “‘The Elephant in the Room’: Corporate Tax Avoidance and Business and Human Rights.” Business and Human Rights Journal 2.1 (2016): 1–30.

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    Darcy addresses tax avoidance by companies in the context of the emerging field of business and human rights. The article considers the extent to which tax issues have been addressed by CSR, before assessing the potential value of the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in this context. The article draws on the experience of Ireland, given the country’s connection to abusive tax practices associated with large multinational corporations and its support for the Guiding Principles.

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  • Nolan, J., and L. Taylor. “Corporate Responsibility for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Rights in Search of a Remedy?” Journal of Business Ethics 87.2 (2009): 433–451.

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    This article assesses the extent of corporate human rights responsibility. First, it explores to what degree economic, social, and cultural rights fall within a corporation’s sphere of responsibility. Second, it assesses how, in the absence of hard law, soft law and home state civil litigation can help hold corporations accountable for violations of such rights. The article concludes that the lines between a corporate responsibility to respect and one to protect human rights are beginning to blur.

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Doing Business in Contexts of Conflict and Authoritarian Governments

A series of works focus directly on corporate practices in countries with repressive governments and conflict zones. Lippman 1985 provides one of the first outlines demonstrating corporate complicity in human rights violations. Jungk 1999 uses manager interviews and UN guidelines to create a framework for how to conduct business in countries in conflict areas. Jungk 2000 argues that in certain circumstances corporations may improve human rights practices in countries where they conduct business. Schermerhorn 1999, White 2004, and Holliday 2005 focus in particular on Myanmar/Burma. Schermerhorn provides a framework for engagement in countries such as Burma with poor human rights records, whereas White argues for divestment and disinvestment. Using Myanmar as a case study, Holliday argues that corporations need new corporate human rights strategies to continue conducting business in countries where sanctions have been ineffective. Taking this view a step further, Hsieh 2009 argues that corporations perpetuate harm in countries with unjust practices if they do not actively work to improve human rights protections in countries where they do business. Santoro 2009 focuses on China to argue that corporations are obligated to help reform human rights in authoritarian countries where they operate. Similarly, Graf and Iff 2016 proposes a model for boosting human rights due diligence to address BHR problems in conflict areas.

  • Graf, A., and A. Iff. “Respecting Human Rights in Conflict Regions: How to Avoid the ‘Conflict Spiral.’” Business and Human Rights Journal 2.1 (2016): 109–133.

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    Graf and Iff introduce a novel way in which human rights due diligence might be “enhanced” to respond to BHR challenges specific to conflict-affected areas. First, they claim that it is crucial to understand that businesses face escalating and largely unpredictable human rights risks once they become involved in conflict. Second, the article shows how integrating aspects of the well-established method of conflict-sensitive business practice into human rights due diligence can help companies address this challenge.

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  • Holliday, I. “Doing Business with Rights-Violating Regimes: Corporate Social Responsibility and Myanmar’s Military Junta.” Journal of Business Ethics 61.4 (2005): 329–342.

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    Holliday assesses the contribution socially responsible companies can make in regard to bringing change to a country in which sanctions have largely failed. The article examines the recent history and present pattern of business links with Myanmar, and assesses whether current strategies can succeed in stimulating change. Concluding that they cannot, it then considers possibilities for new forms of corporate engagement. The article outlines a strategy of principled and collaborative corporate engagement, its codification, and its implementation.

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  • Hsieh, N. “Does Global Business Have a Responsibility to Promote Just Institutions?” Business Ethics Quarterly 19.2 (2009): 251–273.

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    Hsieh argues that corporations have a duty to promote just institutions in countries that lack them. This duty, as he argues, can be justified on the grounds of a negative obligation to do no harm. His reasoning is that if a company operates in a context in which its activities necessarily contribute to harm through an unjust system, the company has a responsibility to promote the transformation of that system.

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  • Jungk, M. “A Practical Guide to Addressing Human Rights Concerns for Companies Operating Abroad.” In Human Rights Standards and the Responsibility of Transnational Corporations. Edited by M. K. Addo, 171–186. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1999.

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    Jungk presents a framework to guide companies operating in states with oppressive governments. Based on interviews with managers and the study of UN positions on the issue, she compiles a framework of four factors that should be considered as minimum standards for a company’s human rights policy. These minimum standards, she argues, must be complemented with a specific company human rights policy.

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  • Jungk, M. Deciding Whether to Do Business in States with Bad Governments. Copenhagen: Danish Centre for Human Rights, 2000.

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    Jungk asserts that businesses do not always undermine human rights when operating in countries with corrupt governments. Their presence may even be beneficial to the advancement of human rights. Understanding the impact of a company, however, is not an easy task. This work aims to help companies determine under what circumstances operating in such can be considered legitimate, providing a decision-making chart that outlines four central principles companies must consider.

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  • Lippman, M. “Multinational Corporations and Human Rights.” In Human Rights and Third World Development. Edited by G. W. Shepherd Jr. and V. P. Nanda, 249–272. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985.

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    Lippman argues that the discussion on the economic impact of multinational companies on development has diverted attention from the impact of their operations on human rights. The complex task of charging multinationals with international duties to protect human rights is analyzed in the context of multinational business operations in and with repressive regimes. Lippman’s article contains one of the first outlines of different forms of corporate complicity and an overview of different companies’ responses to such allegations.

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  • Santoro, M. A. China 2020: How Western Business Can – and Should – Influence Social and Political Change in the Coming Decade. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009.

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    Santoro argues that multinational corporations operating in China have a duty to contribute to political and social reform in the context of an authoritarian, human rights–violating regime, including helping to foster a rule of law as a means to challenge government action.

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  • Schermerhorn, J. R. “Terms of Global Business Engagement in Ethically Challenging Environments: Applications to Burma.” Business Ethics Quarterly 9.3 (1999): 485–505.

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    Schermerhorn examines the case in Burma to provide a framework that outlines four alternative terms of global business engagements as they relate to operations in ethically challenging environments. The framework distinguishes two forms of engagement (unrestricted and constructive) and two forms of nonengagement (principled and sanctioned). It assesses their respective ethical, social, and cultural foundations as well as their likely social and economic impact in the host country.

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  • White, J. “Globalization, Divestment and Human Rights in Burma.” Journal of Corporate Citizenship 14 (2004): 47–65.

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    White analyzes the specific context of Burma, White provides a moral, economic, social, and political justification for private and public institutions to divest (stop investing in companies that do business in Burma) and disinvest (withdraw operations from Burma). Comparing the context of Burma with that of apartheid South Africa, White argues that disinvestment can put pressure on the military government to consider reforms.

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The Intersection of Human Rights and Environmental Concerns

Scholarship finds ample common ground between advocacy for global human rights and environmental protections. Affolder 2015 focuses, in particular, on the interconnection of human rights and environmental policy in the private sector. Bauer 2011 explores a social movement that leverages the international human rights framework to support environmental protections frameworks. Cragg 2011 argues that although the normative frameworks of sustainable development and human rights could be viewed as conflicting, a closer examination finds them to be mutually reinforcing.

  • Affolder, N. “Square Pegs and Round Holes? Environmental Rights and the Private Sector.” In Environmental Law Dimensions of Human Rights. Edited by B. Boer, 11–36. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

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    Affolder moves beyond dominant debates on environmental policy, which focus primarily on the power of states, to examine instead the less-explored effects of the private sector. She challenges the notion of a clear division between public and private sectors as well as the view that the private sector is composed only of large multinationals. The article explores the potential for human rights discourses to challenge a global green economy that is heavily influenced by markets.

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  • Bauer, J. “Business and Human Rights: A New Approach to Advancing Environmental Justice in the United States.” In Human Rights in the United States: Beyond Exceptionalism. Edited by S. Hertel and K. Libal, 175–198. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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    Bauer describes how a social movement has formed in recent years that uses the international human rights framework to address environmental degradation. Thus, it emphasizes the negative impact of polluting companies on the rights of local and indigenous communities. Bauer outlines three cases of community struggles against polluting industries in the United States that illustrate the link between human rights and environment within the concept of environmental justice.

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  • Cragg, W. “Sustainability, Business and Human Rights.” In Business Ethics and Corporate Sustainability. Edited by A. Tencati and F. Perrini, 149–163. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2011.

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    Cragg argues that the normative logics underlying the concepts of sustainable development and human rights are incommensurable. While human rights apply only to people currently alive, the primary focus of sustainability is on the welfare of future generations. Cragg reconciles the two perspectives by proposing that those alive today have an obligation not to undermine the capacity of future generations to create conditions required for the enjoyment of human rights during their own lifetime.

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Business and Human Rights: Industries

A considerable part of the business and human rights debate focuses on the characteristic challenges within particular industries. This section puts the spotlight on some of the more notorious ones and their common human rights issues. The garment and footwear sector was among the first ones to be called out by the broader public for sweatshop and child labor practices. Labor conditions remain a problem in the sector and compliance with codes of conduct and international labor standards often cannot be ensured adequately. Accordingly, comprehensive solutions prove difficult to find and implement. The same goes for the extractive sector. The sustained criticism of multinational oil companies in the Niger Delta triggered the business and human rights debate back in the 1990s and the sector’s involvement in conflict and human rights violations has been well documented ever since. The sourcing of conflict minerals in particular has affected also the electronics industry. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 is a response to this challenge and requires publicly reporting companies in the United States to disclose their due diligence on the sourcing of conflict minerals. In the pharmaceutical industry, human rights challenges most commonly relate to the right to health. Access to essential and live-saving drugs is one of the core issues discussed in this regard. Good business practices of pharmaceutical companies as well as the transformation of global patent regimes are among the key drivers of enhancing access to medicines for patients. The banking and finance industry is often connected indirectly to human rights violations through its funding and financing activities. The sector has long been under the radar in the business and human rights discussion and has come under heavier scrutiny only recently. A number of standards, such as the Equator Principles and the Draft Johannesburg Principles, address the banking sector’s human rights responsibilities and are discussed in this section. Finally, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector bears both a negative as well as a positive potential in terms of human rights impacts. Data disclosure and Internet censorship can impact human rights negatively, while the promotion of free access to the Internet can advance human rights and democratic movements.

Garments, Footwear, and Textiles

Consistent with the business and human rights debate’s early focus on labor rights, the garment, footwear, and textile industry has attracted significant attention early on and has remained in the spotlight for sweatshop practices and child labor issues. This section provides an overview of labor rights concerns in the garment sector in various countries. Ahamed 2012 focuses on Bangladesh; Delaney, et al. 2013 on Australia; and French and Wokutch 2005 on Brazil. As Tulder and Kolk 2001 shows, codes of conduct vary across the industry, depending on the sourcing strategies, degrees of multinationality, and national backgrounds of companies as well as on the influence of NGOs. However, Ahamed 2012 argues that lack of social compliance remain a problem in the sector, and Delaney, et al. 2013 shows that inadequate regulatory frameworks do as well. But also new multi-stakeholder approches such as the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety have not lived up to the expectations. Labowitz and Baumann-Pauly 2015 provides insight into the respective shortcomings. In some cases, adequate solutions are prevented simply by inadequate framings of the underlying problems – child labor is a case in point, as French and Wokutch 2005 shows.

  • Ahamed, F. “Improving Social Compliance in Bangladesh’s Ready-Made Garment Industry.” Labour and Management in Development 13 (2012): 1–26.

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    The ready-made garments (RMG) sector has a greater potential than any other sector to reduce poverty and make a contribution to the national economy. However, poor working conditions and the lack of social compliance continue to be a cause for concern. This article examines working conditions in the RMG sector of Bangladesh and compares labor standards with ILO labor standards and Western fair labor practices.

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  • Delaney, A., M. Montesano, and R. Burchielli. “Regulatory Challenges in the Australian Garment Industry: Human Rights in a Post-Ruggie Environment.” Labour & Industry 23.1 (2013): 69–88.

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    This article investigates the human rights and business nexus in Australia, applying a labor rights lens. The authors examine the roles of states, corporations, and nonstate actors in two cases within the Australian garment industry: the Home Workers Code of Practice and Coles. The authors also examine governance gaps as direct consequences of inadequate regulatory frameworks provided by government.

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  • French, J. L., and R. E. Wokutch. “Child Labor, Globalization and International Business Ethics: A Case Study in Brazil’s Export-Oriented Shoe Industry.” Business Ethics Quarterly 15.4 (2005): 615–640.

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    This article explores the complexity of the ethics of work by children by analyzing Brazil’s export-oriented shoe industry. The study shows how some common assumptions about child labor are not correct. As a consequence, assessments about its harmful effects differ among different stakeholder groups. This raises ethical questions about the responses to child labor. The authors argue that we should focus on exploitation of children, rather than on child labor per se.

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  • Labowitz, S., and D. Baumann-Pauly. Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg: Bangladesh’s Forgotten Apparel Workers. New York: New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, 2015.

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    This comprehensive investigation of labor rights protections in the Bangladesh garment industry focuses, in particular, on indirect suppliers. Factories using indirect sourcing often have little oversight, making labor rights violations common. The authors found that only a small fraction of factories were covered by the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, and although safety inspections have taken place at many factories, few problems have been remedied.

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  • Tulder, R. V., and A. Kolk. “Multinationality and Corporate Ethics: Codes of Conduct in the Sporting Goods Industry.” Journal of International Business Studies 32.2 (2001): 267–283.

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    The authors analyze the development of codes of conduct in the sporting goods industry. It examines monitoring and compliance mechanisms included in the codes. Analyzing six multinational sporting goods companies from the United States, Europe, and Japan, the authors demonstrate how different sourcing strategies, degrees of multinationality, and national backgrounds affect the content of codes. In addition, the authors discuss the effect of non-governmental organizations on codes of conduct.

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Extractive Industries

Kaeb 2008 and Perks 2012 demonstrate that the extractive industries have been a subject of consistent and significant concern. Chandler 1998 and Simons and Macklin 2014 trace how in the 1990s, oil exploration and development in the Niger Delta and the Western Upper Nile region, in what is now South Sudan, attracted considerable scrutiny and helped trigger the broader business and human rights debate. Chandler 1998 argues early on that multinational oil companies ought to adopt a more proactive approach to address human rights issues in the regions in which they operate. More recently, in works such as Meyersfeld 2016, the focus has shifted to also include human rights violations in the mining industry and specifically in connection with the extraction of rare minerals in conflict zones. Kaeb 2008 outlines some of the typical human rights problems in the extractive sector and some of the key factors affecting them. While most contributions focus on human rights issues during mining operations, Meyersfeld 2016 addresses the problematic legacy after the conclusion of operations. Like in the garment sector addressed above, comprehensive solutions are hard to come about also in the extractive industries. Perks 2012 discusses the potential of public-private partnerships to improve conflict prevention and promote human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Simons and Macklin 2014 critically assesses a range of multi-stakeholder and intergovernmental initiatives and conclude that home state regulation is critical in the quest to address corporate impunity for transnational human rights violations.

  • Chandler, G. “Oil Companies and Human Rights.” Business Ethics: A European Review 7.2 (1998): 69–72.

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    Chandler argues that human rights have become the major external challenge to the oil industry. Oil companies that operate in areas of conflict and oppression, as he argues, have a responsibility to use their influence to protect human rights and promote the rule of law—doing so, as he claims, is not least in the company’s own interest. Chandler calls on companies to make human rights a more explicit determinant in corporate decision making and to confront governments where human rights are violated systematically.

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  • Kaeb, C. “Emerging Issues of Human Rights Responsibility in the Extractive and Manufacturing Industries: Patterns and Liability Risks.” Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights 6.2 (2008): 327–353.

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    This study by Kaeb addresses the human rights record of the extractive and manufacturing industries in several countries and describes the relationship between the local political situation, corporate structure of the parent-subsidiary relationship on human rights violations. Kaeb explains how public policy and local business practices in host countries affect human rights problems of MNCs, and she describes the sector-specific patterns of human rights problems.

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  • Meyersfeld, B. “Empty Promises and the Myth of Mining: Does Mining Lead to Pro-Poor Development?” Business and Human Rights Journal 2.1 (2016): 31–53.

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    Mining operations in the Global South often worsen conditions for affected communities after the conclusion of the operations as compared to pre-mining conditions. This is regression, not progress, which is contrary to the narrative surrounding mining’s promise of economic growth. While mining certainly brings profit, this profit does not result in social and economic development of affected communities and people living in poverty.

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  • Perks, R. “How Can Public–Private Partnerships Contribute to Security and Human Rights Policy and Practice in the Extractive Industries? A Case Study of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).” Resources Policy 37 (2012): 251–260.

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    This article examines public–private partnerships (PPP) to improve conflict prevention and human rights promotion in the mining sector of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Perks discusses the conflict and risk mitigation in the extractive sector in DRC, and she points out the gaps in policy and practice using two case studies of DRC that demonstrate the PPP model.

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  • Simons, P., and A. Macklin. The Governance Gap: Extractive Industries, Human Rights, and the Home State Advantage. London: Routledge, 2014.

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    This book critically assesses a range of multi-stakeholder and intergovernmental initiatives along with a range of domestic laws and legal mechansims in terms of their ability to regulate or effectively challenge the behaviour of transnational extractive companies. The authors argue that home state regulation is a crucial part of a multilevel strategy to address corporate impunity for transnational human rights violations and put forward a template for an integrated domestic regulatory regime.

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Electronics

The electronics industry has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Epstein and Yuthas 2011 demonstrates that the use of conflict minerals, in particular, has proven to be a critical issue. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 requires publicly reporting companies in the United States to disclose the measures they have taken to exercise due diligence on the source and chain of custody of conflict minerals. Epstein and Yuthas 2011 takes a close look at the impact of the law.

  • Epstein, M. J., and K. Yuthas. “Conflict Minerals: Managing an Emerging Supply-Chain Problem.” Environmental Quality Management 21.2 (2011): 13–25.

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    Epstein and Yuthas describe the impact of the US Conflict Minerals Law under the Dodd-Frank Act on supply chain management. The new rule requires companies that purchase products containing conflict minerals to describe their efforts to determine the source and chain of custody of such commodities to mitigate the financing of human rights violations. The authors discuss the benefits and limitations of verification methods.

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Pharmaceutical Industry

Moon 2013 notes that in the pharmaceutical industry, human rights concerns have been voiced particularly as they pertain to access to essential drugs. Leisinger 2005 and Leisinger 2009 argue that pharmaceutical companies can make their biggest contribution to solving the problem through their regular business activities. Other studies, such as Joseph 2003, rather call for an alternative regime to enhance access to essential medicines, which reduces patent rights for pharmaceutical companies without compromising research and development in the sector. Finally, Pierik 2015 explores the current state of protections for subjects in transnational clinical trials.

  • Joseph, S. “Pharmaceutical Corporations and Access to Drugs: The ‘Fourth Wave’ of Corporate Human Rights Scrutiny.” Human Rights Quarterly 25.2 (2003): 425–452.

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    Joseph contends that the human right to access to essential medicines is compromised by the high prices charged by pharmaceutical corporations. These high prices are facilitated by the global protection afforded to pharmaceutical patents. Joseph analyzes arguments for and against patents, along with the human rights duties of pharmaceutical companies and governments and alternative strategies for facilitating access to essential medicines.

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  • Leisinger, K. M. “The Corporate Social Responsibility of the Pharmaceutical Industry: Idealism without Illusion and Realism without Resignation.” Business Ethics Quarterly 15.4 (2005): 577–594.

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    Leisinger asks what the responsibility of the pharmaceutical sector is in regard to the human rights to health. While the question about respecting and protecting the right to health, in Leisinger’s view, are answered quickly, the question about the corproate responsibility to fulfill the right to health is more complex. The pharmaceutical industry’s main contribution, as he contends, continues to be made through its normal business activities.

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  • Leisinger, K. M. “Corporate Responsibilities for Access to Medicines.” Journal of Business Ethics 85, Suppl. 1 (2009): 3–23.

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    This article explores the responsibility and good practices of pharmaceutical companies in regard to the improvement of people’s access to essential drugs. Leisinger argues that all societal actors, including the private sector, have a moral obligation to support endeavors that promote improved health. However, he sees the biggest leverage to be achieved through policy and governance, rather than in isolated initiatives by pharmaceutical companies.

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  • Moon, S. “Respecting the Right to Access to Medicines: Implications of the UN Guiding Principles on BHR for the Pharmaceutical Industry.” Health and Human Rights Journal 15.1 (2013): 32–43.

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    This article analyzes the 2008 Human Rights Guidelines for Pharmaceutical Companies in relation to Access to Medicines in light of the Ruggie Principles. It concludes that some guidelines relate directly to the industry’s responsibility to respect the right to access to medicines, and form a normative baseline to which firms should be held accountable. It also finds that responsibility for other guidelines may better be ascribed to states than to private actors.

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  • Pierik, R. “Human Rights and the Regulation of Transnational Clinical Trials.” Political Studies 63.4 (2015): 870–886.

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    This article begins by providing a comprehensive description of the practice and its current regulatory oversight. It is argued that this regulatory scheme is insufficient for protecting the interests of test subjects in such relocated trials. The article then suggests an alternative scheme, embedded in the general framework of human rights protections, and develops the contours of such a human rights–based regulatory scheme.

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Banking and Finance

The human rights impacts of banking and project finance is another area where the spotlight has fallen in recent years, as examined in Wright 2012 and de Felice 2015. Accordingly, the human rights responsibilities of banks has been debated controversially. A recent example is the Thun Group of Banks’ recent discussion paper, which came under heavy criticism for downplaying the sector’s responsbilities. de Felice 2015 analyzes the report and highlights its shortcomings. A number of standards address the human rights impacts of the banking industry. Wright 2012 assesses the impact of the Equator Principles, which address human rights issues in project financing. Meyersfeld and Kinley 2015, on the other hand, analyzes the the Draft Johannesburg Principles, which were developed in 2011 and offer universal insights for human rights in the banking sector.

  • de Felice, D. “Banks and Human Rights Due Diligence: A Critical Analysis of the Thun Group's Discussion Paper on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.” International Journal of Human Rights 19.3 (2015): 319–340.

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    The Thun Group’s influential discussion paper is the foundation for the first ever comprehensive guide on how universal banks should move from corporate social responsibility to human rights due diligence. This article offers a critical assessment of the document. The Thun Group relies on a faulty subsidiary approach, avoids fundamental issues like access to effective remedy, and downplays the importance of engagement with affected stakeholders.

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  • Meyersfeld, B., and D. Kinley. “Banks and Human Rights: A South African Experiment.” International Journal on Human Rights 12.22 (2015): 189–205.

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    The business and human rights discussion requires an analysis of all relevant players, including those who finance the operations of MNCs. Banks can have significant influence over the operations of MNCs and their role needs to be the subject of greater interrogation in theory, policy, and practice. This article records and analyzes some of the policy-oriented initiatives undertaken in South Africa toward the creation of standards for banks operating in the region.

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  • Wright, C. “Global Banks, the Environment, and Human Rights: The Impact of the Equator Principles on Lending Policies and Practices.” Global Environmental Politics 12.1 (2012): 56–77.

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    Wright overviews the emergence, diffusion, and evolution of the Equator Priciples. The author assesses the impact of the Equator Principles on lending policies and practices and on the environmental and social governance of project financing. He notes their impact on external accountability of financial institutions.

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Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Internet service providers such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN have also come under scrutiny for their complicity in violations of free speech in authoritarian countries. Smith 2008 looks at the negative impacts of data disclosure and the censoring of Internet content on human rights. Winter 2013, on the other hand, highlights the positive potential of the global Internet in promoting and preserving human rights and democratic movements.

  • Smith, J. D. “Internet Content Providers and Complicity in Human Rights Abuse.” In Ethical Theory and Business. 8th ed. Edited by T. L. Beauchamp, N. E. Bowie, and D. G. Arnold, 442–455. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2008.

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    Smith argues that Internet content providers (ICPs) have been complicit in their decision to disclose user information and filter Internet content. First, he reviews the activities of ICPs and Internet censorship in China that affect the rights to expression, association, and privacy. Then, he classifies different forms of human rights violation in business.

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  • Winter, J. S. “Is Internet Access a Human Right? Linking Information and Communication Technology Development with Global Human Rights Efforts.” Global Studies Journal 5.3 (2013): 35–48.

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    The wave of uprisings and protests in Arab nations since late 2010 has demonstrated the immense potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) channeled for democracy. This paper argues that universal access to the global Internet is essential for the preservation of democracy and human rights and places the recent United Nations declaration that Internet access is a human right in the context of ongoing debates about the right to communicate.

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Inside the Company: Human Rights in Corporate Policy, Strategy, and Managerial Decision Making

The integration of human rights concerns and responsibility into management processes and daily operations of businesses is still at an early stage. Many corporations still struggle to make sense of human rights as an area to address with distinct policies and tools. Accordingly, the number of companies adopting explicit human rights policies and implementing specific human rights management processes is rather low and many of the monitoring, reporting, and verification systems that are in place lack effectiveness. One critical element for the improvement of companies’ human rights performance is their measurability. Accordingly, the development of better tools and indicators to measure human rights has received increasing attention as of late.

Bringing Human Rights to Life in Corporate Policy, Strategy, and Management

Increasingly, companies see themselves faced with the expectation that they address human rights within and through their management processes. Generally, companies have been reluctant to make human rights an explicit subject of management attention; their interpretation of human rights as well as the respective responsibilities attached to them vary widely, as Obara 2017 shows. Historically, as Sullivan and Seppala 2003 demonstrates, human rights have been dealt with, if at all, more implicitly and within areas such as human resources or health and safety rather than as a distinct management issue. Accordingly, as the empirical analysis in Preuss and Brown 2012 illustrates, the percentage of companies with an explicit and separate human rights policy is still rather low. Furthermore, as is shown in Salcito, et al. 2015, the disparities between firms as well as industries in this regard remain substantial, despite the key role that such a policy plays for the development of a comprehensive human rights management system, as Sullivan and Seppala 2003 discusses. The difficulty of devising effective management systems for human rights emphasizes the importance of sound ethical judgment in managerial decision making. The path between ethical relativism and moral absolutism is narrow when making sensitive decisions in foreign cultural contexts. Donaldson 1996 provides a helpful heuristic for ethical decision making concerning the management of human rights. Company relations with repressive governments raise a particular challenge in this regard. As Forcese 1997 argues, companies must do more to assess their human rights impact in such contexts and should have comprehensive guidelines to structure such relations.

  • Donaldson, T. “Values in Tension: Ethics away from Home.” Harvard Business Review 74.5 (1996): 48–62.

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    This article outlines a heuristic for managers to deal with moral challenges abroad. It aims at providing managers guidance through the maze of cultural differences without falling into the trap of ethical relativism, on the one hand, and moral imperialism, on the other. Respect for core human values, as it argues, is the absolute moral threshold for all company activities. Donaldson considers basic rights as a part of those core values.

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  • Forcese, C. Putting Conscience into Commerce: Strategies for Making Human Rights Business as Usual. Montreal: International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, 1997.

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    This report outlines steps that businesses should take to ensure that their net impact on human rights is positive. Additionally, it outlines mechanisms available to consumers, shareholders, workers, and governments to encourage responsible business conduct and to hold companies accountable and provides advice to respective consumer, workers, or shareholder campaigns to do so. Of particular interest is Forcese’s categorization of ways in which companies may help to bolster repressive governments.

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  • Obara, L. J. “‘What Does This Mean?’ How UK Companies Make Sense of Human Rights.” Business and Human Rights Journal 2.2 (2017): 249–273.

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    Through an analysis based on sensemaking, the author explores the meaning of human rights, the grounds used to justify corporate responsibility, and the human rights terminology and labels employed within the corporate setting of twenty-two UK companies. The author then analyzes what this understanding and discourse means for the debate about the role of private entities for the protection of human rights.

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  • Preuss, L., and D. Brown. “Business Policies on Human Rights: An Analysis of Their Content and Prevalence among FTSE 100 Firms.” Journal of Business Ethics 109.3 (2012): 289–299.

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    The aim of this empirical analysis is to take stock of what the current level of commitment of large corporations to human rights is. The sample consists of the companies listed in the FTSE 100 index. The study explores how widespread corporate policies on human rights are among them, whether any sectors are particularly active in this regard, and what the content of such policies typically is.

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  • Salcito, K., C. Wielga, and B. Singer. “Corporate Human Rights Commitments and the Psychology of Business Acceptance of Human Rights Duties: A Multi-industry Analysis.” International Journal of Human Rights 19.6 (2015): 673–696.

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    The authors analyzed and coded the human rights policies of the largest corporations in six of the world’s most globalized industries. Using the language of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as benchmarks, they developed a scoring mechanism to evaluate the level of responsibility companies had accepted to (1) respect human rights, (2) conduct human rights due diligence, and (3) provide remedies for human rights violations associated with their activities.

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  • Sullivan, R., and N. Seppala. “From the Inside Looking Out: A Management Perspective on Human Rights.” In Business and Human Rights: Dilemmas and Solutions. Edited by R. Sullivan, 102–112. Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf, 2003.

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    Sullivan and Seppala outline the pillars of an (ideal) human rights management system from initial review of the extent of a company’s human rights responsibilities to the drafting of a human rights policy to its implementation, and, finally, its monitoring, performance tracking, and reporting. The second part of the article deals with how companies are already addressing human rights in their management processes.

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Measurement, Disclosure, and Reporting on Human Rights

As seen above, there is much room for improvement in terms of the adoption of human rights policies and management processes. However, as Simons 2004 argues, even where policies and the respective monitoring, reporting, and verification systems are in place, they remain largely inadequate and ineffective. However, at least in some sectors, such as the global garment manufacturing and retail industry, the rate of companies disclosing their human rights record has increased significantly since 1998. Islam and McPhail 2011 provides evidence. Furthermore, de Felice 2015 shows that various initiatives to improve the measurement of human rights and the development of respective indicators are underway to assist corporations in improving their human rights performance.

  • de Felice, D. “Business and Human Rights Indicators to Measure the Corporate Responsibility to Respect: Challenges and Opportunities.” Human Rights Quarterly 37.2 (2015): 511–555.

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    This article offers an overview of the most prominent business and human rights measurement initiatives and draws attention to the normative, methodological, practical, and political challenges related to the production of valid and emancipatory measures of corporate respect for human rights. The objective is to move the debate forward, from the “if” (whether to use indicators) to the “how” (how to create better initiatives).

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  • Islam, M. A., and K. McPhail. “Regulating for Corporate Human Rights Abuses: The Emergence of Corporate Reporting on the ILO’s Human Rights Standards within the Global Garment Manufacturing and Retail Industry.” Critical Perspectives on Accounting 22.8 (2011): 790–810.

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    This paper criticizes the lack of critical accounting scholarship on corporate disclosure in relation to human rights. Its aim is threefold: first, it explores how multinational garment retailers invoke the language of human rights when disclosing their corporate responsibilities. Second, it analyzes the regulatory space that may have influenced the companies to adopt the language of human rights. Third, it reflects on the power and potential within the corporate adoption of the language of human rights.

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  • Simons, P. “Corporate Voluntarism and Human Rights: The Adequacy and Effectiveness of Voluntary Self-Regulation Regimes.” Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations 59.1 (2004): 101–141.

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    Simons focuses on the effectiveness of voluntary self-regulation in addressing corporate complicity in some of the more egregious human rights violations. For this purpose, she assesses five companies and their voluntary codes and human rights policies as well as their performance assessment, their reporting, and their verification in regard to their human rights impact. Simons raises significant concerns about the adequacy and effectiveness of voluntary self-regulation regimes.

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Corporate Human Rights Violations: Direct and Indirect

The business and human rights discussion typically distinguishes between direct and indirect human rights violations with company involvement. While companies are the primary perpetrators in the case of direct violations, they “merely” contribute or are linked to violations of third parties such as host governments in the case of indirect violations. Cases of corporate complicity are widespread, but they are often more difficult to identify and condemn than direct violations. Therefore, critical NGOs have had a focus on such indirect company involvement in human rights abuse early on. Similarly, the scholarly discussion has focused early on the definition and conceptualization of corporate complicity in human rights abuse. There are no easy answers regarding how companies ought to respond to allegations of complicity. While active corporate involvement in human rights violations call for corporations to stop contributing to the harm, passive kinds of complicity, such as silent or beneficial complicity, may require more of companies; they may have to become active and try to mitigate or stop the abuse. Thus, different corporate responses are required to address different kinds of indirect human rights violations.

Corporate Human Rights Violations

Corporations can have both positive and negative impacts in developing countries. The determinants particularly of negative human rights impacts are not well understood and in need of more research, as Giuliani and Macchi 2014 makes clear. However, not only how corporations violate human rights is important to understand, but also how they respond to and interact with critics, who raise such allegations against them. Kamminga 2016 provides a systematic inquiry into such company responses.

  • Giuliani, E., and C. Macchi. “Multinational Corporations’ Economic and Human Rights Impacts on Developing Countries: A Review and Research Agenda.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 38.2 (2014): 479–517.

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    This paper analyzes and integrates existing microlevel empirical evidence on the economic and human rights impacts of MNCs in developing countries. It provides a critical analysis of what is known and highlights what we do not know about the factors that mediate the positive and/or negative impacts of MNC operations on host developing countries.

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  • Kamminga, M. “Company Responses to Human Rights Reports: An Empirical Analysis.” Business and Human Rights Journal 1.1 (2016): 95–110.

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    How do companies respond to their critics when accused of violating human rights? Are there significant differences in responsiveness between industrial sectors or between the countries in which companies are based? This article attempts to answer such questions by examining company responses to civil society reports contained in the company response database of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. The analysis covers responses to 1,877 requests made from 2005 to 2014.

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Corporate Complicity: Overview

The subject of indirect violations of human rights, that is, of corporate complicity in human rights abuses in particular, has attracted much scholarly scrutiny in recent years. However, most of the work has been done by legal scholars, while the management literature has started to devote attention to the topic only recently. Clarifying corporate complicity was one of the main tasks of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) during his first tenure. Corporate complicity refers to indirect human rights violations by corporations. It is generally defined as aiding and abetting in human rights violations committed by third parties, typically by the state. Generally, different types of complicity are distinguished. They typically range from overt and direct to more subtle forms based on benefit and silence. The categorization in Clapham and Jerbi 2001 has become seminal in the business and human rights field. Tripathi 2005 shows that the problem of complicity is exacerbated in zones of conflict.

  • Clapham, A., and S. Jerbi. “Categories of Corporate Complicity in Human Rights Abuses.” Hastings International and Comparative Law Review 24 (2001): 339–350.

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    Clapham and Jerbi divide the concept of complicity into three categories: direct, indirect, and silent complicity. The article does a good job defining and distinguishing these three forms and outlines some of the key conditions that need to be fulfilled in order for a company to become complicit in human rights abuses. While this article does adopt a legal perspective on complicity, it is widely cited for definitional purposes also beyond the legal literature.

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  • Tripathi, S. “International Regulation of Multinational Corporations.” Oxford Development Studies 33.1 (2005): 117–131.

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    The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of multinational companies in zones of conflict. It applies a complicity lens to situations of conflicts and illustrates it with various cases. In particular, it is concerned with whether multinationals initiate and prolong conflicts or with the role they can play in mitigating or ending them. Tripathi’s analysis of the diamond industry and of the Kimberly process are of particular interest.

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Complicity in the Public Spotlight

Questions of complicity came into the public spotlight at the end of the 1990s, when high-profile reports from human rights NGOs such as Human Rights Watch 1999a and Human Rights Watch 1999b and Amnesty International 2000 were issued.

  • Amnesty International. Sudan: The Human Price of Oil. AFR 54/001/2000. London: Amnesty International, 2000.

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    This report aims at making clear the link between human rights violations committed by the security forces of the Sudanese government and various government-allied militias, and the oil operations by foreign companies. Among such violations are atrocities and the forcible internal displacement of people. Amnesty International believes that many of these foreign companies tolerate such violations by turning a blind eye on them in the name of protecting the security of the oil-producing areas.

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  • Human Rights Watch. The Enron Corporation: Corporate Complicity in Human Rights Violations. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999a.

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    This report focuses on a subsidiary of the Enron Development Corporation in India (the Dabhol Power Corporation) and its involvement in human rights violations committed against local villagers, who opposed to the Dabhol power project. Violations range from beatings to arbitrary detention to violent crackdowns on peaceful demonstration. The report accuses Enron Corporation, among other things, of benefiting from these violations and thus being complicit in them.

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  • Human Rights Watch. The Price of Oil: Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights Violations in Nigeria’s Oil Producing Communities. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999b.

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    This report explores human rights violations related to the oil industry in the Niger Delta and the role and responsibilities of the major multinational oil companies in respect to those violations. It addresses complicity of such companies particularly in human rights violations committed by government forces against protesters. It argues that corporations are expected to prevent such human rights violations through a variety of measures and oppose and condemn them, where they occur.

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Responses to Corporate Complicity

Due to the complexity of corporate complicity, it is rarely immediately clear what response is owed by a company that is implicated with complicity in human rights abuse. In some situations, as Brenkert 2009 argues, particularly when avoidance of complicity requires the violation of other fundamental principles, moral compromise may be a legitimate response for corporations. Other situations, typically those in which companies are implicated with silent complicity, may call for a response beyond mere avoidance of harm. Rather, Wettstein 2012 calls on corporations to take a public stand against the perpetrator of human rights violations. Hoffman and McNulty 2009, on the other hand, advises tackling the complicity problem through broad policy initiatives such as a global declaration on the universal rights and duties of business. Li and Gaur 2014 shows that collective efforts may be necessary particularly in emerging economies where corporations risk competitive disadvantage when operating on high human rights standards.

  • Brenkert, G. G. “Google, Human Rights, and Moral Compromise.” Journal of Business Ethics 85.4 (2009): 453–478.

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    Brenkert analyzes the complexity of complicity in situations in which avoiding it would harm other fundamental principles. In such situations, as he argues, moral compromise, rather than the categorical avoidance of complicity, is legitimate. He illustrates his argument with the case of Google’s operations in China. In this context, Brenkert’s elaborations on complicity in the violation of the right to freedom of expression bears high relevance in light of the rapid development and expansion of the ITC industry.

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  • Hoffman, W. M., and R. E. McNulty. “International Business, Human Rights, and Moral Complicity: A Call for a Declaration on the Universal Rights and Duties of Business.” Business and Society Review 114.4 (2009): 541–570.

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    This article is based on the premise that even companies with the best intentions can be drawn into complicity in human rights abuses. It explores the complicity problem and offers a solution to it by proposing the adoption of a declaration on the universal rights and duties of business.

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  • Li, S., and A. Gaur. “Financial Giants and Moral Pygmies? Multinational Corporations and Human Rights in Emerging Markets.” International Journal of Emerging Markets 9.1 (2014): 11–32.

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    The article shows that, first, in a country with a high level of human rights abuses, multinationals will have to lower their human rights standards to survive; but, second, a collective effort by all firms is essential to improve the human rights conditions in the host environment; and third, a firm’s human rights practices may have a multiplicative effect that can significantly affect the momentum of human rights development in a host country.

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  • Wettstein, F. “Silence as Complicity: Elements of a Corporate Duty to Speak Out against the Violation of Human Rights.” Business Ethics Quarterly 22.1 (2012): 37–62.

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    This article focuses on and analyzes questions as they pertain specifically to the concept of silent complicity. If silence can denote complicity, as it argues, then speaking out against human rights violation is the proper response to avoid it. The article assesses under what conditions corporations may be silently complicit in human rights violations and thus to have such a duty to protect human rights.

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Holding Corporations Accountable: International Law, Domestic Law, Soft Standards, and Codes

The dominant view still holds that transnational companies do not hold any human rights responsibility under international law. However, a number of recent developments, particularly at the level of the United Nations, challenge this view. Nevertheless, a stark accountability gap still exists at the international level when it comes to corporations’ human rights conduct. One way in which this gap has attempted to be filled is by transnational litigation in domestic courts. Victims of corporate human rights abuse have been making use of domestic courts in the home states of transnational companies to file lawsuits against the parent companies of subsidiaries, which violated human rights in host states. Such lawsuits have had limited success so far, but the number is on the rise and more and more countries offer possibilities for civil and criminal litigation against companies when they violate human rights abroad. Another avenue are international soft-law and multi-stakeholder initiatives. Industry-specific standards, in particular, have yielded positive results and potential, but generally the lack of enforcement and accountability mechanisms of such initiatives remains a concern. The UN Global Compact in particular, whose human rights principles played an important role in the early years of the business and human rights debate, has been heavily criticized for its lack of enforcement measures. Between 1998 and 2004 a working group of the UN Sub-Commission of Human Rights drafted the UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights, which are now known as the UN Draft Norms. The UN Draft Norms were designed to become a legally binding framework for corporate human rights responsibility. However, the criticism, particularly from the private sector, was fierce, which led to the failure of the project. Ten years after that failure, in 2014, the UN Human Rights Council started new negotiations for a binding treaty on business and human rights. While the negotiations remain controversial and difficult, the discussion has evolved and deliberations prove more promising than back in 2004.

The Potential and Limits of International Law in Holding Companies Accountable

Few mechanisms under current international law are available to hold companies accountable for human rights violations (Alston 2005). However, both Muchlinski 2001 and McCorquodale 2009 show that recent developments both in international law—most notably the “Ruggie Framework” of the United Nations, including the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (dealt with in depth in a separate section)—and national law (e.g., human rights litigation in domestic courts) offer the promise of turning the moral duties created by human rights into legal obligations. While human rights litigation has achieved limited judicial success so far, Schrempf-Stirling and Wettstein 2017 provides evidence that such lawsuits prompt corporations to increase their human rights efforts overall. The accountability gap between human rights ideals and enforcement has been a major preoccupation in the scholarly literature. Business and human rights scholars have contemplated different options and assessed their potential effectiveness. Deva 2003 suggests enforcing compliance with human rights through the World Trade Organization (WTO); McCorquodale and Simons 2007 consider indirect accountability through the state obligations, and the secondary rules on state responsibility; Seck 2008 and McCorquodale 2009 focus on home state regulation of transnational extractive corporations; finally, De Schutter 2006 proposes an international convention on business and human rights.

  • Alston, P. “The ‘Not-a-Cat’ Syndrome: Can the International Human Rights Regime Accommodate Non-State Actors?” In Non-State Actors and Human Rights. Edited by P. Alston, 3–36. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    In this early piece, Alston considers the state-centric nature of international law. He notes that international lawyers interested in the promotion and protection of international human rights take a very conservative view of which actors have obligations under international law. He argues that there is an urgent need for reform of the international human rights system in order to address the reality that powerful actors, other than states, may violate human rights.

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  • De Schutter, O. “The Challenge of Imposing Human Rights Norms on Corporate Actors.” In Transnational Corporations and Human Rights. Edited by O. De Schutter, 1–39. Oxford: Hart, 2006.

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    This chapter provides a history of international attempts to address the conduct of multinational corporations since the 1970s. It goes on to discuss some of the main criticisms about the Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with regard to Human Rights. The article then considers the variety of tools available to address corporate accountability for human rights violations and concludes with observations on the role of an international convention.

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  • Deva, S. “Human Rights Violations by Multinational Corporations and International Law: Where from Here?” Connecticut Journal of International Law 19.1 (2003): 1–57.

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    In this article, Deva identifies four key weaknesses of the international legal system in terms of ensuring that corporations do not engage in human rights violations in their global activities and argues that international law should be harnessed to regulate corporate activity. He suggests the engagement of the World Trade Organization as a means to sanction multinational corporations for human rights abuses and puts forward a proposal on how this might work in practice.

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  • McCorquodale, R. “Corporate Social Responsibility and International Human Rights Law.” Journal of Business Ethics 87.2 (2009): 385–400.

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    McCorquodale examines the three pillars of the UN Framework in terms of international legal regulation. A major element of the framework’s operationalization, he argues, must include legal regulation. Especially in regard to the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, McCorquodale asserts that voluntary CSR provisions will not be sufficient. McCorquodale argues new laws should be created that clearly establish accountability of the parent company for its subsidiaries in other countries.

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  • McCorquodale R., and P. Simons. “Responsibility beyond Borders: State Responsibility for Extraterritorial Violations by Corporations of International Human Rights Law.” Modern Law Review 70.4 (2007): 598–625.

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    McCorquodale and Simons consider whether states may incur international responsibility for the transnational acts of corporations. They examine the jurisprudence of regional human rights bodies, the International Court of Justice, as well as the decisions and comments of UN human rights treaty bodies, on the extraterritorial human rights obligations of states. The authors argue that there are a variety of situations which states can be found internationally responsible for the extraterritorial acts of corporations.

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  • Muchlinski, P. T. “Human Rights and Multinationals: Is There a Problem?” International Affairs 77.1 (2001): 31–47.

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    This seminal article assesses arguments both in favor of and against the extension of human rights responsibility to multinational companies. Muchlinski points to the transformation of power in the global political economy, which puts a question mark behind the private legal status of multinational companies. He sees this position reinforced by recent legal developments, both international and domestic, that recognize an emergent responsibility for human rights violations on the part of nonstate actors.

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  • Schrempf-Stirling, J., and F. Wettstein. “Beyond Guilty Verdicts: Human Rights Litigation and Its Impact on Corporations’ Human Rights Policies.” Journal of Business Ethics 145.3 (2017): 545–562.

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    Despite an increase in foreign direct liability cases, no corporation has been found guilty and most cases have been dismissed so far. This paper argues that it may nevertheless be a useful instrument to advance the business and human rights agenda. The review of over forty such cases shows that most corporations adjusted their human rights policies and adopted additional measures to cope with human rights issues during or shortly after the legal proceedings.

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  • Seck, S. L. “Home State Responsibility and Local Communities: The Case of Global Mining.” Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal 11.1 (2008): 177–206.

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    Seck challenges the arguments put forward by home states that regulating the transnational conduct of extractive corporations would encroach on the sovereignty of host states. She demonstrates that, on the contrary, absent a true conflict with host state regulation, such regulation is permissible based on the principles of nationality and territoriality. Seck argues that not only is such regulation permissible, but also there is an emerging international legal obligation on home states to take such measures.

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Corporate Criminal Liability and Transnational Human Rights Litigation

A vast majority of transnational human rights litigation cases have been brought to US courts. The Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) has provided the most suitable and most commonly used foundation for such cases. However, a more limited number of such cases can be found also in other countries. Ramasastry 2002 puts such human rights litigation into a more historical context, starting with the Nuremberg trials after World War II. Joseph 2004 analyzes civil litigation cases both in the United States and abroad, focusing particularly on the ATCA. However, a number of Supreme Court decisions have progressively limited the use of ATCA for such cases in recent years. Stephens 2004 analyzes the impact of the seminal case Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, which limited the scope of ATCA litigation against companies to the most serious human rights violations. Besides civil liability, criminal liability of companies for transnational human rights violations has been a focus in the business and human rights field. Thompson, et al. 2008 provides a comparative analysis of sixteen countries in this regard.

  • Joseph, S. Corporations and Transnational Human Rights Litigation. Oxford: Hart, 2004.

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    This book provides a useful discussion of the early lawsuits brought against transnational corporations for extraterritorial violations of human rights and considers the effectiveness of such civil litigation. Joseph focuses primarily on civil suits launched in the United States under the Alien Tort Claims Act, as well as the Torture Victims Protection Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. However, she also considers civil claims brought in other jurisdictions.

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  • Ramasastry, A. “Corporate Complicity: From Nuremberg to Rangoon; An Examination of Forced Labor Cases and Their Impact on the Liability of Multinational Corporations.” Berkeley Journal of International Law 20.1 (2002): 91–159.

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    Ramasastry examines the liability of multinational corporations in forced labor cases and compares case law from the Nuremberg and Far East war crimes tribunals with modern litigation relating to World War II forced labor claims in US courts. Ramasastry examines the historical roots of corporate complicity. In addition, Ramasastry analyzes the different categories of complicity and how those might give rise to liability for companies.

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  • Stephens, B. “Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain: ‘The Door Is Still Ajar’ for Human Rights Litigation in U.S. Courts.” Brooklyn Law Review 70.2 (2004): 533–567.

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    Stephens discusses the impact of Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, on future litigation under the Alien Tort Statute, and particularly litigation against corporations for complicity in transnational violations of human rights. The US Supreme Court in Sosa narrowed the range of human rights violations over which federal courts could exercise jurisdiction under the statute; however, it confirmed access to US federal courts for individuals bringing claims for the most serious violations of human rights.

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  • Thompson, R. C., A. Ramasastry, and M. B. Taylor. “Translating Unocal: The Expanding Web of Liability for Business Entities Implicated in International Crimes.” George Washington International Law Review 40.4 (2008): 841–902.

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    This article examines emerging standards of civil and criminal liability for multinational enterprises involved in human rights abuses through the lens of US court cases but broadens to assess liability in a variety of diverse jurisdictions. It presents the results of a comparative law survey involving sixteen countries on the status of international criminal law in each country.

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Soft-Law Initiatives and Their Enforcement Problem

Any regime or institution developed to deal with transnational firms’ human rights violations, as Kobrin 2009 argues, must be consistent with the structure of the emerging post-Westphalian transition world order, which is characterized by the fragmentation of authority; the increasing ambiguity of borders and jurisdiction; and the blurring of the line between the public and the private spheres. In the absence of legally enforceable norms, voluntary standards and codes offer an alternative form of achieving corporate accountability for human rights in this regard. Frankental 2002 suggests that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) could serve as a basis for voluntary corporate codes of conduct. Beyond the UDHR, a variety of voluntary codes and standards have been proposed as vehicles for closing the accountability gap, including the UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights (UN Draft Norms), the UN Global Compact, the OECD Guidelines, the ISO standards, the Sullivan Principles, the UN Center for Transnational Corporations’ Draft Code, the ILO’s Tripartite Declaration, the Caux Round Table Principles for Business, and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Carasco and Singh 2008, Seppala 2009, as well as Simons and Macklin 2014 provide helpful analysis of, and insight into, such standards. Baumann-Pauly, et al. 2017 identifies industry-specific multi-stakeholder initiatives as an instrument that holds particular promise. However, Campbell 2006 laments that corporations have only insufficiently integrated human rights in their voluntary codes and standards of behavior so far. The lack of accountability and enforcement mechanisms remains a problem of international soft-law initiatives. Monshipouri, et al. 2003 proposes the establishment of an outside governing body to overcome this gap.

  • Baumann-Pauly, D., J. Nolan, A. van Heerden, and M. Samway. “Industry-Specific Multi-stakeholder Initiatives That Govern Corporate Human Rights Standards: Legitimacy Assessments of the Fair Labor Association and the Global Network Initiative.” Journal of Business Ethics 14.4 (2017): 771–787.

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    Multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) are increasingly used as a default mechanism to address human rights challenges in a variety of industries. The paper argues that industry-specific MSIs that set out to govern corporate behavior have great potential to develop legitimacy. The authors analyze two industry-specific MSIs to get a better understanding of how these MSIs formed, how they define and enforce standards, and how they seek to ensure accountability.

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  • Campbell, T. “A Human Rights Approach to Developing Voluntary Codes of Conduct for Multinational Corporations.” Business Ethics Quarterly 16.2 (2006): 255–269.

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    Campbell’s paper addresses the perceived ineffectiveness of voluntary codes. He observes that many voluntary codes of conduct, declarations, and corporate responsibility policies avoid the terminology of human rights and argues that their integration would help remedy some of the flaws of such codes. Combined with a high degree of transparency and monitoring, such codes, then, could make a contribution to fill the current regulatory gap at the global level.

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  • Carasco, E. F., and J. B. Singh. “Human Rights in Global Business Ethics Codes.” Business and Society Review 113.3 (2008): 347–374.

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    This seven global ethics codes. Early codes that are described in the paper include the Sullivan Principles, the UN Center for Transnational Corporations’ Draft Code, the OECD Guidelines, and the ILO’s Tripartite Declaration. More recent codes include the Caux Round Table Principles for Business, the UN Global Compact, and the now shelved United Nations Draft Norms. It provides an overview over past and recent attempts to establish human rights as a part of corporate responsibility.

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  • Frankental, P. “The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a Corporate Code of Conduct.” Business Ethics: A European Review 11.2 (2002): 129–133.

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    The field of human rights is largely unchartered territory for companies. Therefore, Frankental argues, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) could serve as a compass, if used as a code of conduct. He outlines fundamental barriers that need to be overcome and dilemmas that need to be resolved if companies are to adopt a policy framework based on the UNDHR.

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  • Kobrin, S. J. “Private Political Authority and Public Responsibility: Transnational Politics, Transnational Firms and Human Rights.” Business Ethics Quarterly 19.3 (2009): 349–374.

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    Kobrin provides an overview of possibilities to hold multinational companies accountable for their human rights conduct in the post-Westphalian context. He touches on possibilities rooted in international law as well as on soft-law initiatives. The solution, according to Kobrin, must be found in a transnational soft-law approach, regulated by a hybrid private-public institution. An approach rooted in hard transnational law, he argues, is not feasible at this point.

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  • Monshipouri, M., C. E. Welch, and E. T. Kennedy. “Multinational Corporations and the Ethics of Global Responsibility: Problems and Possibilities.” Human Rights Quarterly 25.4 (2003): 965–989.

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    This paper adopts a rights-based view on corporate responsibility and argues that neither the state nor voluntary codes will be able to sufficiently protect human rights within the global economy. To overcome the enforcement gap, the possibility of an outside governing body of the global economy is assessed. The article contains a careful critical assessment of the strengths and limits of the UN Global Compact in regard to corporate human rights conduct.

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  • Seppala, N. “Business and the International Human Rights Regime: A Comparison of UN Initiatives.” Journal of Business Ethics 87 (2009): 401–417.

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    Seppala analyzes the interaction among states, companies, and other actors in order to shed light on how the international regime on human rights expands to include nonstate actors. The article assesses three recent UN initiatives in this regard: the UN Global Compact, the UN Draft Norms, and the UN Framework. Overall, this article provides helpful insight into the drafting processes of the three initiatives.

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  • Simons, P., and A. Macklin. The Governance Gap: Extractive Industries, Human Rights, and the Home State Advantage. London: Routledge, 2014.

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    In chapter 3 of this book, Simons and Macklin provide in-depth assessments of a range of key multi-stakeholder and intergovernmental initiatives in terms of their ability to address transnational corporate conduct that violates human rights. The authors find that although each of these initiatives has valuable features, they are not sufficient to prevent extractive companies from violating human rights, to ensure accountability, or to provide effective remedies for victims.

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The Human Rights Principles of the UN Global Compact

The UN Global Compact was the first international corporate responsibility standard that put human rights center stage. Wettstein 2012 outlines that Principles 1 and 2 of the Global Compact address direct and indirect human rights violations by corporations. However, the Global Compact has been subject to frequent and sometimes fierce critique, not least due to its voluntary nature and, as Williams 2004 claims, due to the elusiveness of its human rights principles. Mendes 2004 shows that the operationalization of the Compact’s principles has been a challenge for corporations as well. Social, economic, and cultural rights raise particular problems in terms of interpretation and operationalization, particularly for pharmaceutical companies, as Leisinger 2003 reports.

  • Leisinger, K. M. “Opportunities and Risks of the United Nations Global Compact: The Novartis Case Study.” Journal of Corporate Citizenship 11 (2003): 113–131.

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    Leisinger outlines Novartis’s efforts in implementing the UN Global Compact within its organization and internal structure. While the article contains much elaboration on the operationalization of corporate citizenship in general, it provides in-depth insight regarding the Global Compact’s human rights principles. The interpretation and operationalization of social, economic, and cultural rights raise particular challenges for pharmaceutical companies.

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  • Mendes, Errol P. “Operationalising the Global Compact with a Focus on the Human Rights Principles: Learning to Walk the Talk.” In Learning to Talk: Corporate Citizenship and the Development of the UN Global Compact. Edited by M. McIntosh, S. Waddock, and G. Kell, 101–113. Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf, 2004.

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    In this brief analysis, Mendes portraits the UN Global Compact as one of the most important stages in the evolution of attempts to hold the private sector accountable for its human rights record. The human rights principles, in Mendes’s view, present the greatest challenge to the private sector. Of particular importance in this regard, as he argues, will be the operationalization of Principle 2 against complicity in human rights abuses.

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  • Wettstein, F. “Human Rights as Ethical Imperatives: The UN Global Compact’s Human Rights Principles.” In Globally Responsible Leadership: Managing According to the UN Global Compact. Edited by J. Lawrence and P. Beamish, 73–86. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2012.

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    The author analyzes both human rights principles of the Global Compact separately. The author clarifies some of the general criteria underlying corporate complicity in human rights abuse and provides an overview of different types of complicity. The article concludes with an argument for a mandatory human rights code similar to the UN Draft Norms. The article provides study questions and case studies to illustrate the content of the article.

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  • Williams, O. F. “The UN Global Compact: The Challenge and the Promise.” Business Ethics Quarterly 14.4 (2004): 755–774.

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    Williams outlines some of the general criticism both by NGOs and the private sector against the Global Compact early in the process. A specific problem he mentions is the elusiveness of the Global Compact’s human rights principles. He puts a specific focus on corporate accountability in terms of human rights conduct. His insights are illustrated with the example of the health-care sector.

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The UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights

Weissbrodt and Kruger 2003 argues that the failure of the UN Draft Norms to gain traction within the UN arguably was a major lost opportunity to close the corporate human rights accountability gap. The legal authority of the Norms derives principally from their sources in international law. Thus, they would not, in a first instance, have achieved the legal status of a treaty. Nevertheless, according to Weissbrodt 2005 they were thought to be nonvoluntary for all companies and were thought to leave room to become more binding in the future. The Norms gave rise to significant controversy and were the subject of wide ranging often polemical criticism. Backer 2005; Kinley and Chambers 2006; as well as Kinley, et al. 2007 provide insight into such pushback. They were shelved by the Human Rights Commission in 2004, giving way to the position of the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, John Ruggie, whose major works will be discussed below. Ruggie himself is one of the most outspoken critics of the UN Draft Norms, as shown in Ruggie 2006.

  • Backer, L. C. “Multinational Corporations, Transnational Law: The United Nations’ Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations as a Harbinger of Corporate Social Responsibility in International Law.” Columbia Human Rights Law Review 37.2 (2005): 287–389.

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    In this article, Backer engages in a wide-ranging critique of the UN Draft Norms. He argues that not only would they undermine the regulatory power of the state, challenge the shareholder primacy model of corporate governance, and vest TNCs with state power, but they would establish a monitoring role for nongovernmental organizations that are not themselves subject to human rights accountability under the Norms.

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  • Kinley, D., and R. Chambers. “The UN Human Rights Norms for Corporations: The Private Implications of Public International Law.” Human Rights Law Review 6.3 (2006): 447–497.

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    Kinley and Chambers assess and respond to some of the core criticisms leveled against the UN Draft Norms. They argue that many of those criticisms lose their force when the Norms are seen for what they are, namely, a nonbinding set of draft standards. The authors conclude that the importance of the Draft Norms lies in the global discourse and controversy that their development has triggered.

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  • Kinley D., J. Nolan, and N. Zerial. “The Politics of Corporate Social Responsibility: Reflections on the United Nations Human Rights Norms for Corporations.” Company and Securities Law Journal 25.1 (2007): 30–42.

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    Kinley, Nolan and Zerial situate the heated debate over the Draft Norms within the broader context of the Corporate Social Responsibility movement and the question of whether the social responsibilities of corporations should be legally enforceable. The authors conclude that although it would not be politically fruitful to push for the adoption of the Norms as drafted, they do provide an important guide to develop international human rights standards for corporations.

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  • Ruggie, J. G. Interim Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises. E/CN.4/2006/97. New York: UN Human Rights Council, 2006.

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    This interim report is intended merely to frame the overall context encompassing the mandate as SRSG John Ruggie sees it, to pose the main strategic options, and to summarize his current and planned program of activities. The report contains Ruggie’s principal criticism of the UN Draft Norms, which are exaggerated legal claims and conceptual ambiguities also and especially in regard to the allocation of human rights responsibilities to states and corporations.

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  • Weissbrodt, D. “Corporate Human Rights Responsibilities.” Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensethik 6.3 (2005): 279–297.

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    Weissbrodt starts his analysis with the description of some historical incidents of human rights abuse with corporate involvement. He then outlines the current shortcomings in the application of international law to such incidents. In the UN Draft Norms he sees a solution to these problems. Weissbrodt outlines five characteristics of the Norms, provides key insight into the drafting process, and addresses the main arguments brought forward by its critics.

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  • Weissbrodt, D., and M. Kruger. “Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights.” American Journal of International Law 97.4 (2003): 901–922.

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    Contending that voluntary codes have not achieved that companies broadly respect basic human rights standards, Weissbrodt and Kruger argue in favor of the UN Draft Norms. The article provides a detailed account of the drafting history of the Norms, outlines some of the key issues that were raised in the drafting process and concludes with insights and recommendations regarding the proper implementation of the Norms.

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Toward a Human Rights Treaty?

After the UN Draft Norms were shelved in 2004 and abandoned entirely by the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights between 2005 and 2011, the start of new negotiations about a potential treaty on business and human rights in the UN Human Rights Council in 2015 marks a second attempt to develop a legally binding framework for corporate human rights obligations. Bilchitz 2016 outlines some of the major reasons and arguments in favor of such a treaty, while De Schutter 2016 presents a range of options of what it could look like.

  • Bilchitz, D. “The Necessity for a Business and Human Rights Treaty.” Business and Human Rights Journal 1.2 (2016): 203–227.

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    This article argues that a treaty is necessary to provide legal solutions to remedy serious lacunae and ambiguities in the current framework of international law that have a serious negative impact upon the rights of individuals affected by corporate activities. The emphasis throughout is on why a binding legal instrument is important, as opposed to softer forms of regulation such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

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  • De Schutter, O. “Towards a New Treaty on Business and Human Rights.” Business and Human Rights Journal 1.1 (2016): 41–67.

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    This article examines the legal as well as political feasibility of four potential options for a legally binding international instrument in the area of business and human rights. The author argues that a hybrid instrument strengthening the states’ duty to protect as well as imposing duties of mutual legal assistance to ensure access to effective remedies for victims may be the best way forward in terms of political feasibility.

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The Mandate of the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights

In 2005, Harvard professor and former Global Compact architect John Ruggie was appointed the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Business and Human rights (SRSG). His appointment marked an important watershed in a long history of attempts by the United Nations to move the business and human rights agenda forward. In 2008, Ruggie’s task was to lead the debate out of the impasse after the failure of the UN Draft Norms. He did so by publishing two major reports. In 2008, he published the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework, which aimed at clarifying and defining the human rights responsibilities both of states and of corporations. The Framework was followed up and operationalized with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which was published in 2011. Despite the unanimous endorsement of the UNGPs by the UN Human Rights Council, critical discussion on them has been ongoing. Critique has been voiced both from legal and from ethical standpoints and refer both to the process as well as to the content of UNGPs. Discussion is also growing on the implementation of the UNGPs. After the expiration of Ruggie’s mandate, the UN put in place a Working Group, which is tasked with advancing the dissemination and implementation of the UNGPs. While much progress has been made in terms of the implementation of the UNGPs, major challenges remain. Two elements have received particular attention in regard to the implementation within companies. On the one hand, implementing human rights due diligence processes, as required by the UNGPs, has proven less straightforward than envisioned. Critique has been voiced particularly regarding an overly instrumental interpretation of the concept and its integration into a conventional risk management system. On the other hand, operational grievance mechanisms have come under scrutiny for a lack of community involvement and effectiveness.

Lead-Up to the Mandate of the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights

The creation of the mandate of the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights must be interpreted in light of earlier attempts of the UN to push the business and human rights agenda. The failure of the UN Draft Norms, in particular, was a critical element that led the UN to establish the mandate and appoint John Ruggie as the Special Representative. Jerbi 2009 outlines some of the critical steps in the lead-up to the mandate.

  • Jerbi, S. “Business and Human Rights at the UN: What Might Happen Next?” Human Rights Quarterly 31.2 (2009): 299–320.

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    This article provides an overview of past and current attempts of the UN to push the business and human rights agenda forward. It starts with very early initiatives with little explicit connection to human rights and moves to more specifically human rights–based instruments such as the UN Global Compact, the UN Draft Norms, and, finally, the mandate of the Special Representative on Business and Human Rights.

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The UN “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework

Ruggie’s rationale for the approach taken in his mandate to address corporate human rights accountability was based on the critique of the UN Draft Norms (Ruggie 2007). In 2008, Ruggie (Ruggie 2008a, Ruggie 2008b) published the much anticipated “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework, in which he presented the basic contours of the state duty to protect human rights and the corporate responsibility to respect human rights as well as the relation between them.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

In 2008, Ruggie’s mandate was extended for another three years in order to operationalize the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework. In 2011 Ruggie published the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were unanimously endorsed by the Human Rights Council. The Guiding Principles concluded Ruggie’s tenure as Special Representative.

Criticism of the “Respect, Protect, and Remedy” Framework and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Ruggie’s work has not been universally acclaimed. Santoro 2012 has criticized the standards of business responsibility enunciated in the Framework as being watered down; Wettstein 2015 perceives them as being too narrow in scope and too weak in terms of their normativity; Simons 2012 holds that they fail to address the root causes of corporate impunity for human rights abuses.

  • Santoro, M. A. “Sullivan Principles or Ruggie Principles? Applying the Fair Share Theory to Determine the Extent and Limits of Business Responsibility for Human Rights.” Notizie di Politeia, Anno 28.105 (2012).

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    The article compares the “Sullivan Principles” for doing business in apartheid South Africa and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Applying a “fair share” theory of responsibility for human rights, the author concludes that the Sullivan Principles are consistent with the moral demands of human rights, whereas the Ruggie Principles constitute a step backward to a significantly lower standard of business responsibility.

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  • Simons, P. “International Law’s Invisible Hand and the Future of Corporate Accountability for Violations of Human Rights.” Journal of Human Rights and the Environment 3.2 (2012): 5–43.

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    Simons engages in a critical examination of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Drawing on Third World approaches to international law scholarship and feminist critiques of international law, the author contends that Ruggie’s approach fails to consider the structural bias of the international legal system that protects and facilitates transnational corporate activity and undermines the governance capacity of host states.

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  • Wettstein, F. “Normativity, Ethics, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: A Critical Assessment.” Journal of Human Rights 14.2 (2015): 162–182.

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    This article assesses the work of UN Special Representative for Business and Buman Rights (SRSG) John Ruggie from the standpoint of ethics. It critiques the restrictive interpretation of corporate responsibilities, in terms of both their scope as well as their normative force. Furthermore, it explores the SRSG’s reluctance to engage with ethical categories more explicitly. Finally, it reflects on the role that ethics can and should play in business and human rights.

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Implementation of the UN Framework and the UN Guiding Principles

By virtue of being associated with the convening power of the United Nations, Ruggie’s work has become an authoritative reference point in the business and human rights debate, shaping both the academic and the practical discussion on the topic. The United Nations remains involved in attempts to implement the Guiding Principles. For this purpose, the mandate of the special representative has been replaced by the UN Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises. Jungk 2012 explains that the Working Group was appointed for an initial period of three years (the mandate has since been extended regularly) and consists of five human rights experts who are tasked, inter alia, with moving the dissemination and implementation of the Guiding Principles forward. Successful implementation within companies, as Aaronson and Higham 2013 notes, is linked not least to governments putting substantial efforts in educating companies (and citizens) about the Guiding Principles and pressing them to act upon the principles. In addition, Wheeler 2015 shows the importance of the public using its “naming and shaming power” effectively. Muchlinski 2012 argues that the implementation of human rights due diligence according to the Guiding Principles will have far-reaching implications and inevitably lead to legal obligations for business.

  • Aaronson, S. A., and I. Higham. “‘Re-righting Business’: John Ruggie and the Struggle to Develop International Human Rights Standards for Transnational Firms.” Human Rights Quarterly 35.2 (2013): 333–364.

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    This article describes how firms, states, and, to a lesser extent, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have responded to the delineation of the human rights responsibilities of business as put forward in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (GPs). It argues that the GPs are unlikely to have much influence unless policymakers educate their national firms and their citizens regarding the human rights responsibilities of business and press these executives to act.

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  • Jungk, M. Report of the Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises. A/HRC/20/29. New York: UN Human Rights Council, 2012.

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    This first report by the UN Working Group summarizes the findings of its first session. It outlines its preliminary views concerning the background and context of the mandate and highlights positive examples of existing initiatives to disseminate and implement the Guiding Principles. Additionally, the report presents an outline of the preliminary strategy that will inform the Working Group’s work for the remainder of the mandate.

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  • Muchlinski, P. “Implementing the New UN Corporate Human Rights Framework: Implications for Corporate Law, Governance, and Regulation.” Business Ethics Quarterly 22.1 (2012): 145–177.

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    This article assesses the implication of the UN Framework’s second pillar for external regulation and internal governance of companies. Muchlinski argues that it may prove impossible in practice to establish a corporate responsibility to respect human rights without creating consequential legal duties. Human rights due diligence, in particular, will lead to the creation of binding legal duties. Furthermore, human rights due diligence requires the adaptation of shareholder-based corporate governance toward a more stakeholder-oriented approach.

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  • Wheeler, S. “Global Production, CSR and Human Rights: The Courts of Public Opinion and the Social License to Operate.” International Journal of Human Rights 19.6 (2015): 757–778.

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    This paper takes at its starting point the responsibility to respect human rights placed upon corporations by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This article sets out the background context to the Framework and examines the structures that it puts forward. The success or failure of the Framework in persuading corporations to respect human rights is tied to whether “the courts of public opinion” can use their “naming and shaming power” effectively.

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Human Rights Due Diligence

Of particular interest in regard to the implementation of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights as proclaimed in the Framework and the Guiding Principles is Ruggie’s concept of human rights due diligence, as noted in Muchlinski 2012 (cited under Implementation of the UN Framework and the UN Guiding Principles). Human rights due diligence (HRDD) is based on human rights risk assessments, which, according to Götzmann 2016, must be distinguished from social risk assessments. Fasterling 2017 elaborates that while social risk measures commonly put the company at the center of attention, human rights risk requires a focus on (potential) victims of human rights violations. Accordingly, Fasterling and Demuijnck 2013 points out that effective human rights due diligence is seen to require genuine moral commitment by corporations. The empirical assessment in McCorquodale, et al. 2017 shows that companies perform significantly better on human rights if they develop their human rights due diligence mechanisms separate from, rather than integrated into, existing risk management processes.

  • Fasterling, B. “Human Rights Due Diligence as Risk Management: Social Risk versus Human Rights Risk.” Business and Human Rights Journal 2.2 (2017): 225–247.

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    This article argues that due diligence in respect of human rights risk is conceptually incompatible with the management of social risk because social risk management and human rights due diligence vary at each step of the risk-management process. To resolve this incompatibility, an effective integration of human rights due diligence processes into corporate risk management systems would require an elevation of human rights respect to a corporate goal that determines corporate strategy.

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  • Fasterling, B., and G. Demuijnck. “Human Rights in the Void? Due Diligence in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.” Journal of Business Ethics 116.4 (2013): 799–814.

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    The authors argue that the effectiveness of the “human rights due diligence” is dependent upon the moral commitment of corporations. Accordingly, the article reveals some limits of pragmatic approaches to business and human rights. Against this background, not only does the case for further progress in international and extraterritorial human rights law become more compelling, but so too does the argument for a more forceful discussion on the moral foundations of human rights duties for corporations.

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  • Götzmann, N. “Human Rights Impact Assessment of Business Activities: Key Criteria for Establishing a Meaningful Practice.” Business and Human Rights Journal 2.1 (2016): 87–108.

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    Götzmann examines commonalities and differences between social impact assessment (SIA) and human rights impact assessment (HRIA). The author suggests that the two fields have much in common. However, there is also significant divergence in terms of the standards applied, the relevance of project benefits, and the recognition of stakeholders as rights-holders and duty-bearers. Further exploration of these areas of difference has the potential to create valuable cross-learning between SIA and HRIA.

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  • McCorquodale, R., L. Smit, S. Neely, and R. Brooks. “Human Rights Due Diligence in Law and Practice: Good Practices and Challenges for Business Enterprises.” Business and Human Rights Journal 2.2 (2017): 195–224.

    DOI: 10.1017/bhj.2017.2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article considers the practices of companies worldwide in attempting to implement human rights due diligence (HRDD). It examines the responses of companies with reference to the core elements of implementing HRDD. and places these practices in the context of the legal developments in the field of HRDD. The research shows the difference that dedicated HRDD—in comparison with processes that are not specific to human rights—can make in terms of identifying adverse human rights impacts.

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Company-Level Grievance Mechanisms

A critical element of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights besides human rights due diligence are company-level grievance mechanisms. Such mechanisms contain significant challenges and pitfalls for corporations. Thompson 2016 argues that their effectiveness needs to be assessed in terms of both process and outcomes and suggests that empowerment of communities is a critical element of both. Similarly, Knuckey and Jenkin 2015 argues that such mechanisms need to be developed in partnership between a company and the affected communities.

  • Knuckey, S., and E. Jenkin. “Company-Created Remedy Mechanisms for Serious Human Rights Abuses: A Promising New Frontier for the Right to Remedy?” International Journal of Human Rights 19.6 (2015): 801–827.

    DOI: 10.1080/13642987.2015.1048645Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article identifies and analyzes what the authors call a “company-created human rights abuse remedy mechanism” (CHRM). It argues that while CHRMs may promise more accessible and convenient remedies, they may also entail unique and serious risks to rights-holders and the right to remedy. Future project-level direct remediation efforts would benefit from a shift toward mechanisms created and administered as a partnership between a company and affected communities.

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  • Thompson, B. “Determining Criteria to Evaluate Outcomes of Businesses’ Provision of Remedy: Applying a Human Rights–Based Approach.” Business and Human Rights Journal 2.1 (2016): 55–85.

    DOI: 10.1017/bhj.2016.30Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    While the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (GPs) provide guidance on operational-level grievance mechanisms as to what constitutes an effective process, inquiries into the effectiveness of outcomes have been met with less success. This article identifies three key incongruities within the GPs in this regard. It then aims to resolve these issues by applying a human rights–based approach with a focus on community empowerment.

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