The Case for Leverage-Based Corporate Human Rights Responsibility

Business Ethics Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 63-98, 2012

48 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2011 Last revised: 17 Nov 2011

See all articles by Stepan Wood

Stepan Wood

Peter A Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

Date Written: September 28, 2011

Abstract

Should companies’ human rights responsibilities arise, in part, from their “leverage” – their ability to influence others’ actions through their relationships? Special Representative John Ruggie rejected this proposition in the United Nations Framework for business and human rights. I argue that leverage is a source of responsibility where there is a morally significant connection between the company and a rights-holder or rights-violator, the company is able to make a contribution to ameliorating the situation, it can do so at modest cost, and the threat to human rights is substantial. In such circumstances companies have a responsibility to exercise leverage even though they did nothing to contribute to the situation. Such responsibility is qualified, not categorical; graduated, not binary; context-specific; practicable; consistent with the social role of business; and not merely a negative responsibility to avoid harm but a positive responsibility to do good.

Keywords: corporate responsibility, business and human rights, leverage, sphere of influence, John Ruggie

JEL Classification: K39, K33, M14

Suggested Citation

Wood, Stepan, The Case for Leverage-Based Corporate Human Rights Responsibility (September 28, 2011). Business Ethics Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 63-98, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1937895

Stepan Wood (Contact Author)

Peter A Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1
Canada
+1 604-827-0441 (Phone)

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