Power and Responsibility: Why Human Rights Should Address Corporate Environmental Wrongs

THE NEW CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY: CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND THE LAW, McBarnet et al., eds., Cambridge, 2007

Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2006-22

26 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2006 Last revised: 20 Jun 2015

See all articles by Amy Sinden

Amy Sinden

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law; Center for Progressive Reform

Date Written: June 22, 2007

Abstract

This essay attempts to construct a normative justification for the imposition of human rights duties on transnational corporations (TNCs) that commit environmental wrongs in the developing world. Under the now near-hegemonic worldview of welfare economics, TNCs are analogised to individuals competing in the marketplace and thus placed squarely on the private side of the public/private divide. If we step outside of the economic worldview, however, and recognise the extent to which the normative justifications for civil and political human rights have traditionally been rooted in a perceived need to counteract the imbalance of power between the individual and the state, it becomes clear that it is frequently far more appropriate to treat TNCs as like states than like individuals. Many TNCs, after all, wield more power and resources than many states. Accordingly, at least where one of two sets of factual circumstances exist, human rights duties should be imposed directly on TNCs for environmental harms: 1) where the state has become so weak and/or corrupt as to be non-functional, or 2) where the TNC has so much power and influence within the domestic government that it essentially controls state decision-making.

Keywords: rights, human rights, environment, corporations, corporate social responsibility, international law

JEL Classification: K00, K22, K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Sinden, Amy, Power and Responsibility: Why Human Rights Should Address Corporate Environmental Wrongs (June 22, 2007). THE NEW CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY: CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND THE LAW, McBarnet et al., eds., Cambridge, 2007; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2006-22. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=925679

Amy Sinden (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-4969 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

Center for Progressive Reform ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
United States

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