Corporate Responsibility for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Rights in Search of a Remedy?

Journal of Business Ethics 87 (2):433 - 451 (2009)
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It is no longer a revelation that companies have some responsibility to uphold human rights. However, delineating the boundaries of the relationship between business and human rights is more vexed. What is it that we are asking corporations to assume responsibility for and how far does that responsibility extend? This article focuses on the extent to which economic, social and cultural rights fall within a corporation's sphere of responsibility. It then analyses how corporations may be held accountable for violations of such rights. Specifically, the article considers the use of soft law as a protective mechanism; it also details how victims of harmful corporate behaviour are using litigation (pursuant to ATCA and common law domestic causes of action) to seek redress and recognition of the harms they have directly or indirectly experienced. The article concludes with an analysis of Professor Ruggie's (the United Nations Special Representative on the issue of transnational corporations and human rights) 2008 and 2009 Reports in which it is suggested that a respect-based framework must be interpreted as imposing proactive requirements on companies to prevent the infringement of human rights. Future efforts must also be directed towards the recognition of a specialised complementary corporate responsibility to protect human rights



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