Any Act, Any Harm, To Anyone: The Transformative Potential of 'Human Rights Impacts' Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

27 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2019

See all articles by David Birchall

David Birchall

City University of Hong Kong (CityUHK) - School of Law

Date Written: July 23, 2019

Abstract

The concept of ‘adverse human rights impacts’ introduced by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is frequently used in institutional, activist and scholarly discourse. However, the term is underexplored and usually equated with ‘human rights violation’, occluding its transformative potential. This article demonstrates its expansiveness and rationale: ‘impacts’ cover any business act which removes or reduces an individual’s enjoyment of human rights. The formula is designed to capture business acts that are not paradigmatically understood as human rights violations but that nonetheless cause harmful outcomes. This can encompass, inter alia, acts which reduce market access to essential goods, harm caused by business-related tax abuse, and business contributions to climate change. The extra-legal concept provides an authoritative argumentative framework through which social understandings of business-related harm can evolve and can underlie a transformative shift in the business-society relationship.

Keywords: UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Adverse Human Rights Impacts, International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, Business and Human Rights, Global Justice

Suggested Citation

Birchall, David, Any Act, Any Harm, To Anyone: The Transformative Potential of 'Human Rights Impacts' Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (July 23, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3425733 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3425733

David Birchall (Contact Author)

City University of Hong Kong (CityUHK) - School of Law ( email )

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Kowloon, Shatin, New Territories
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