Public Regulators and CSR: The ‘Social Licence to Operate’ in Recent United Nations Instruments on Business and Human Rights and the Juridification of CSR
28 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2015 Last revised: 19 Jan 2016
Date Written: October 18, 2015
The social licence to operate (SLO) concept is little developed in the academic literature so far. Deployment of the term was made by the United National (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the UN ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework, which apply SLO as an argument for responsible business conduct, connecting to social expectations and bridging to public regulation. This UN guidance has had a significant bearing on how public regulators seek to influence business conduct beyond Human Rights to broader Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) concerns. Drawing on examples of such public regulatory governance, this article explores and explains developments towards a juridification of CSR entailing efforts by public regulators to reach beyond jurisdictional and territorial limitations of conventional public law to address adverse effects of transnational economic activity. Through analysis of an expansion of law into the normative framing of what constitutes responsible business conduct, we demonstrate a process of juridification entailing a legal framing of social expectations of companies, a proliferation of law into the field of business ethics, and an increased regulation by law of social actors or processes.
Keywords: Social Licence to Operate; Corporate Social Responsibility; Human Rights & Business; public-private regulation and mixed forms of law; transnational law; non-financial reporting; sustainability research; legal research
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