Accounting Auditing & Accountability Journal publishes special issue on business & human rights

The Accounting Auditing and Accountability Journal has just published a special issue on business and human rights. The special issue, entitled "The Past, The Present and The Future of Social Accounting for Human Rights", is edited by Prof Ken McPhail (University of Manchester) and Prof John Ferguson (University of St Andrews).

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20 April 2016

Corporate respect for human rights: meaning, scope, and the shifting order of discourse

Author: Ken McPhail, Univ. of Manchester (UK), Carol A. Adams, Durham Univ. (UK)

..[T]his paper explores how respect for human rights is emerging and being operationalised in the discourse of thirty Fortune 500 companies in the mining, pharmaceutical and chemical industries at two key points in the recent evolution of the UN’s business and human rights agenda... Specifically the paper explores the scope of rights for which corporations are accountable and, more specifically, the degree of responsibility a company assumes for enacting these rights...The study finds four grammars of respect and three different scopes of rights within specific corporate accountably disclosures on their responsibility to respect rights...Corporate constructions of human rights are broad: from labour rights, through social and political rights, to the right to health and a clean environment...The corporate discourse is one of promoting, realizing and upholding rights that construct the corporation as an autonomous source of power beyond the state.

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20 April 2016

Human rights disasters, corporate accountability and the state: an emerging economy case

Author: Javed Siddiqui, Univ. of Manchester (UK), Shahzad Uddin, Univ. of Essex (UK)

This paper examines the state-business nexus in responses to human rights violations in businesses and questions the efficacy of the UN guiding principles on human rights in businesses, in particular in the ready-made garments (RMG) industry in Bangladesh...The paper provides clear evidence that the state-business nexus perpetuates human rights disasters...Complex state politics, including family, kinship and wealthy supporters, and economic circumstances have serious implications for the efficacy of the UN guiding principle on human rights for business...The study highlights the perpetuation of corporate human rights abuses by the state-business nexus, and indicates that human rights issues continue to be ignored through a discourse of denial. 

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20 April 2016

Human rights, accounting, and the dialectic of equality and inequality

Author: John McKernan Univ. of Glasgow (UK), Yingru Li, Univ. of Glasgow (UK)

The UN Guiding Principles locate human rights at the centre of the corporate social responsibility agenda and provide a substantial platform for the development of business and human rights policy and practice...The initiative gives opportunity and focus for the rethinking and reconfiguration of corporate accountability for human rights...It also presents a threat: The danger, as we see it, is that the Guiding Principles are interpreted and implemented in an uncritical way, on a “humanitarian” model of imposed expertise...The critical and radical democratic communities have tended to be, perhaps rightly, suspicious of rights talk and sceptical of any suggestion that rights and the discourse of human rights can play a progressive role...The aim of this paper is to explore these issues from a radical perspective...This paper uses insights taken from Jacques Rancière’s work to argue that there is vital critical potential in human rights...This paper uses insights taken from Jacques Rancière’s work to argue that there is vital critical potential in human rights.  

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20 April 2016

Should the International Accounting Standards Board Have Responsibility for Human Rights?

Author: Ken McPhail, Univ. of Manchester (UK), Kate Macdonald, Univ. of Melbourne (Australia), John Ferguson, Univ. of St Andrews (UK)

[This] paper begin[s] to explore the basis for, and ramifications of, applying relevant human rights norms—such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights—to the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)...In doing so, the paper seeks to contribute to scholarship on the political legitimization of the IASB’s structure and activities under prevailing global governance conditions...The paper explores three distinct argumentative logics regarding responsibilities for justice and human rights vis-à-vis the IASB...First, we explore the basis for applying human rights responsibilities to the IASB through reasoning based on the analysis of ‘public power’ (Macdonald, 2008) and public authorization...Second, we develop our reasoning with reference to recent attempts by legal scholars and practitioners to apply human rights obligations to other non-state and transnational institutions...Finally, we develop reasoning based on Thomas Pogge’s (1992b) ideas about institutional harms and corresponding responsibilities.

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20 April 2016

The corporate responsibility to respect human rights: a status review

Author: Claire Methven O'Brien, Danish Institute for Human Rights, Sumithra Gayathri Dhanarajan, Natl. Univ. of Singapore

This article provides a critical analysis of developments from 2011 to date relating to the Second Pillar of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights...The article first briefly contextualises the corporate responsibility to respect human rights as articulated by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights with regard to international human rights law as it currently stands...It then describes and analyses new norms and emerging practices in six areas where the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights call for a response from business and governments: human rights due diligence, corporate policies on human rights, human rights impact assessment, remediation of corporate human rights abuses, supply chain responsibility and transparency, and corporate reporting of human rights impacts...Throughout, the article includes a focus on examples from Asia and Europe...The article concludes by cautioning the need for continuing evaluation of the effectiveness of current approaches to implementing the UN Guiding Principle in securing respect for human rights in practice and the validity of their underlying assumptions.

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19 April 2016

Business & human rights: a commentary from the inside

Author: Michael Posner, NYU Stern School of Business (USA)

This article has three aims: first, to provide an overview of the genesis of the business and human rights agenda; second, to identify key areas of focus in the emerging business and human rights agenda; and, finally, to argue for an approach to engaging business in the human rights agenda that is both challenging and practically orientated...[The paper] identifies six key areas of focus in this emerging agenda, specifically, supply chains and labour rights, the extractive industries especially relating to security, information technology and issues of freedom of expression, agriculture and issues of child and forced labor, and investment and socially responsible investors. The paper contends that we have come to the end of the beginning of the discussion of business and human rights and are now in the phase of defining what the rules are in this 21st century global economy... The paper provides important considerations for taking this phase forward...

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19 April 2016

The past, the present and the future of accounting for human rights

Author: Ken McPhail, University of Manchester (UK), John Ferguson, University of St Andrews (UK)

This paper discusses a number of important recent developments in the area of business and human rights and considers the impact of these developments for accounting, assurance and reporting...Following the UN endorsement of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the Guiding Principles) in June 2011, initiatives related to their implementation have advanced at a rapid pace...Despite the centrality of accounting, assurance and reporting to some of the key initiates – accounting research has, hitherto, lagged behind this growing momentum...In order to address this lacunae, this paper develops an agenda for future research in the area of accounting and human rights...In particular, the paper highlights the emergence of business and human rights due diligence requirements, including their management and reporting...Further, the paper draws attention to the development of business and human rights reporting and assurance practice – which, while still in its infancy, has gathered considerable momentum and support.

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