Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society

Volume 22, 2011

Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Annual Meeting

Michelle Westermann-Behaylo, Harry J. Van Buren III
Pages 99-110

Business and Human Rights
Responsibility to Respect, Opportunity to Develop, Inspiration to Promote

One domain of corporate responsibility that is receiving considerable attention is whether and to what extent corporations have human rights obligations. The United Nations, through the work of Special Representative to the Secretary-General John Ruggie, has developed a framework seeking to clarify the responsibilities of businesses related to human rights. However, this framework adopts a limited, “do no harm” expectation for corporations that fails to capture the positive role that corporations can play in this social responsibility domain. In this paper we take up the institutional pressures affecting corporations with regard to human rights, summarize some of the critiques of the Ruggie framework, offer moral imagination and stakeholder engagement as complements to this framework’s current approach, and conclude with a dialectical analysis that in time might lead to a new consensus in this area.