Political Conceptions of Human Rights and Corporate Responsibility

In Reidar Maliks & Johan Karlsson Schaffer (eds.), Moral and Political Conceptions of Human Rights: Implications for Theory and Practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 229-257 (2017)
Daniel P. Corrigan
Marymount University
Does a political conception of human rights dictate a particular view of corporate human rights obligations? The U.N. “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework and Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, developed by John Ruggie, hold that corporations have only a responsibility to respect human rights. Some critics have argued that corporations should be responsible for a wider range of human rights obligations, beyond merely an obligation to respect such rights. Furthermore, it has been argued that Ruggie relied on a political conception of human rights, and this is what led him to limit corporate obligation to mere respect for human rights. In this paper, I explore and critically assess this general claim about political conceptions of human rights. This involves distinguishing different types of political conceptions of human rights, as well as specifying what makes a theory of human rights a “political conception.” In light of this clarificatory discussion, I argue that the general thesis is false; the mere fact that a theory offers a political conception of human rights does not necessarily entail any certain range of corporate human rights obligations. Finally, I identify some of the other aspects of a theory of human rights that do affect the range of corporate obligations it will prescribe.
Keywords Business and Human Rights  Human Rights  Business Ethics  Corporate Social Responsibility
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