The Politics of Corporate Social Responsibility: Reflections on the United Nations Human Rights Norms for Corporations
University of Sydney - Faculty of Law
University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law
University of Sydney
Company and Securities Law Journal, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 30-42, 2007
Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 07/10
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a fixture on the agendas of corporate boards in much the same way as environmental issues did a decade or so ago. To what extent social responsibilities should be made legally enforceable remains a matter of some fierce debate. There are already many laws in Australia that bind corporations in respect of such social issues as occupational health and safety, labour standards, privacy, non-discrimination and environmental protection. But should there be more specific human rights coverage, especially in respect of off-shore corporate activities in developing countries where there are well-documented examples of corporate abuse - or corporate complicity in host-state abuses - of rights to life, protection from physical harm, trade union membership, labour standards and workplace conditions, and others? The United Nation's Draft Human Rights Norms for Corporations seeks to impose obligations on states to ensure that corporations within their jurisdiction (including extra-territorial) abide by certain minimum human rights standards. Many (but not all) corporations are opposed to the idea and modus operandi of the Norms, as are many (but not all) governments, including Australia's. In response to these concerns, the United Nations Secretary-General has appointed a Special Representative to review the Norms, which review is currently underway. This article analyses the debate over the Norms, focusing on the various reasons advanced by both sides, their legal implications, and the likely future of the Norms within the context of the developing notion of CSR, internationally and in Australia.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 14
Keywords: Corporate social responsibility, human rights law, corporations law, international law
JEL Classification: K22, K33Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: February 14, 2007 ; Last revised: November 20, 2007
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