Journal of Business Ethics 116 (4):799-814 (2013)

Geert Demuijnck
EDHEC Business School
The ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ (Principles) that provide guidance for the implementation of the United Nations’ ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ framework (Framework) will probably succeed in making human rights matters more customary in corporate management procedures. They are likely to contribute to higher levels of accountability and awareness within corporations in respect of the negative impact of business activities on human rights. However, we identify tensions between the idea that the respect of human rights is a perfect moral duty for corporations and the Principle’s ‘human rights due diligence’ requirement. We argue that the effectiveness of the ‘human rights due diligence’ is in many respects dependent upon the moral commitment of corporations. The Principles leave room for an instrumental or strategic implementation of due diligence, which in some cases could result in a depreciation of the fundamental norms they seek to promote. We reveal some limits of pragmatic approaches to coping with business-related human rights abuses. As these limits become more apparent, 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
Keywords Human rights  Ruggie Principles  Corporate responsibility  Moral rights  Moral duties
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-013-1822-z
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