Beyond CSR: The Story of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Chapter 22, Rae Lindsay and Roger Martella (eds), 'Corporate Responsibility, Sustainable Business: Environmental, Social and Governance Frameworks for the 21st Century', (Kluwer Law International), May 2020 Forthcoming

40 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2020

See all articles by John Sherman

John Sherman

Corporate Responsibility Initiative

Date Written: March 25, 2020

Abstract

This paper is a draft version of a chapter to be published in May 2020 in the following work: Rae Lindsay and Roger Martella (eds), Corporate Responsibility, Sustainable Business: Environmental, Social and Governance Frameworks for the 21st Century, (Kluwer Law International) and is published here with kind permission of the International Bar Association.

It is intended for corporate lawyers who increasingly are being asked to advise their clients on business and human rights issues. It addresses the far-reaching implications of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (‘UNGPs’), which the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed in 2011, following six years of multistakeholder consultations, research, and pilot projects. Their uptake has been broad and swift. They have become the global authoritative standard, providing a blueprint for the steps all States and businesses should take to uphold human rights.

The paper explains why the UNGPs are profoundly different from voluntary initiatives and self-regulation, commonly placed under the umbrella term of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

It traces the three sources of governance that produced a thick consensus around the UNGPs and resulted in operationalization of the three-pillar Protect, Respect, and Remedy framework created by Professor John Ruggie, the author of the UNGPs and former Special Representative of the Secretary General on Business and Human Rights.

The paper explains the content of each pillar of the UNGPs. It then shows how they are increasingly incorporated or reflected in law, regulation, judicial and administrative decision-making, public policy, multistakeholder norms, commercial and financial transactions, the practices and policies of leading companies, and the advocacy of civil society.

It concludes by urging corporate lawyers to act as wise counsellors by going beyond CSR when advising clients on human rights, in order to help their clients navigate the often-unclear boundaries between hard and soft law.

Keywords: business and human rights, car, UNGPs, corporate lawyer

Suggested Citation

Sherman, John, Beyond CSR: The Story of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (March 25, 2020). Chapter 22, Rae Lindsay and Roger Martella (eds), 'Corporate Responsibility, Sustainable Business: Environmental, Social and Governance Frameworks for the 21st Century', (Kluwer Law International), May 2020 Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3561206

John Sherman (Contact Author)

Corporate Responsibility Initiative ( email )

John F. Kennedy School of Government
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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