Drawing in part on other articles in this special issue, in part on the author’s observations of developments in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and business responsibilities for human rights, this article argues that there is a closer relationship between CSR and law than often recognised. The article provides an overview of CSR and human rights responsibilities of businesses in terms of conceptual, normative and regulatory developments, discusses the relationship between CSR and law and whether CSR may constitute informal or proto-law, and concludes by drawing together some perspectives on the interrelationship of law, CSR and business responsibilities for human rights.
Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); Business Responsibilities for Human Rights; defining CSR; artificial distinction between CSR and law; informal law; proto-law.
This article traces the interrelationship of human rights with business and considers the central role played by corporations in the global economy. In particular it examines three points of intersection between human rights and business: transnational commerce, trade and investment, and development aid. As the influence of corporations on the economic and political scene in many countries has increased in recent decades, international law has barely responded to this growing imbalance of power exposing an accountability gap within the broad global economy for corporate related human rights abuses. In outlining the key theoretical, practical and institutional features of the intersection with international human rights standards and the global economy, the paper stresses the growing importance of corporations in the field and the attendant international legal responsibilities and expectations that are now made of corporations in the quest to better protect and promote human rights. Evidently the impact of the global economy on human rights is extremely significant, even if, as yet, the same cannot be said in respect of the human rights impact on the global economy.
Key words: Trade, aid, corporate social responsibility, global economy.
The field of business and human rights has been transformed lately, in the legal framework, but most significantly in business attitudes and practices as driven by activism and progressive companies. The achievements of the CSR movement require CSR to evolve to achieve its promising potential. Three themes deserve attention from both researchers and practitioners: the scope of CSR, the systemic effects of CSR on governance, and the relationship of CSR with law and policy. As CSR is approaching maturity it is timely to reinsert corporate voluntarism among other protective mechanisms and concentrate on its interaction with its wider governance context.
Keywords:Corporate responsibility, human rights, sphere of influence, good governance, partnership, regulation.
This paper argues that corporate social responsibility policies for human rights can gain legitimacy in a number of different ways: through multi-stakeholder dialogue, the authority of internationally recognized human rights and labor rights norms, consensual validation among local stakeholders, scale and breadth of adoption, and most importantly, the operational impact of the normative standard in the workplace. Using this model I compare and critique two initiatives in this field: the UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights, evidence from recent studies of the impact of voluntary codes shows that social auditing alone, although necessary, is not sufficient. A more comprehensive “toolbox” approach holds the promise of overcoming the limitations of the current model, and moving more factories and farms in the global supply chain towards sustainable compliance with internationally accepted labor and human rights standards.
Keywords: corporate social responsibility, discourse ethics, globalization, human rights, legitimacy, multi-stakeholder dialogue.
One interesting mechanism of Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) is the divestment arrangement for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund (Global). The Norwegian Parliament established a Council on Ethics to advise on the exclusion of certain corporations from the portfolio of the Fund, to prevent complicity with violations of fundamental humanitarian principles, serious violations of human rights, gross corruption or severe environmental damage. The article explores two issues concerning this mechanism, one practical and one normative. The first concerns the exclusion mechanism’s implementation, the second what we are to make of efforts to impose normative constraints on profit-seeking economic activity. Sections 1 and 2 present the ethical guidelines and show how the Council decides on its recommendations. Section 3 considers whether such SRI by large investors can be said to be effective and legitimate responses to the new challenges wrought by economic globalization. Section 4 indicates three of several possible roles the SRI may play, while section 5 draws some conclusions. In particular, the Norwegian government’s divestment efforts – primarily aimed at preventing complicity – may serve to prevent wrong-doing by others under certain conditions.
Keywords: Human Rights, Divestment, Socially Responsible Investment, philosophy, globalization, Adam Smith, Norges Bank, forced labour, child labour, ILO.