Business & Human Rights Journal

The Business and Human Rights Journal (BHRJ) provides an authoritative platform for scholarly debate on all issues concerning the intersection of business and human rights in an open, critical and interdisciplinary manner. It seeks to advance the academic discussion on business and human rights as well as promote concern for human rights in business practice.

Includes peer-reviewed articles published alongside shorter ‘Developments in the Field’ items that include policy, legal and regulatory developments, as well as case studies and insight pieces.

Editors- in- Chief: 

Surya Deva, City University of Hong Kong 
Anita Ramasastry, University of Washington School of Law 
Michael Santoro, Rutgers Business School 
Florian Wettstein, University of St Gallen 

Volume 1, Issue 01

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Article
25 January 2016

Corporate Moral Agency and the Responsibility to Respect Human Rights in the UN Guiding Principles: Do Corporations Have Moral Rights?

Author: Patricia H Werhane, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

In 2011 the United Nations (UN) published the ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework’ (Guiding Principles). The Guiding Principles specify that for-profit corporations have responsibilities to respect human rights. Do these responsibilities entail that corporations, too, have basic rights? The contention that corporations are moral persons is problematic because it confers moral status to an organization similar to that conferred to a human agent. I shall argue that corporations are not moral persons. But as collective bodies created, operated, and perpetuated by individual human moral agents, one can ascribe to corporations secondary moral agency as organizations. This ascription, I conclude, makes sense of the normative business responsibilities outlined in the Guiding Principles without committing one to the view that corporations are full moral persons.

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Article
25 January 2016

Addressing Security and Human Rights Challenges in Complex Environments

Author: Alan Bryden and Lucía Hernández, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

Among the challenges faced by businesses operating in complex environments, security issues can be particularly difficult to address…The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) are committed to promoting effective multi-stakeholder approaches to security and human rights challenges…This engagement has translated into a strategic partnership…seeking to maximize the opportunities offered by the V[oluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights] through working together…to help address security and human rights challenges…This article highlights insights and approaches emerging from the DCAF-ICRC partnership. Following the logic of the project, it is intended to promote much-needed discussion and experience sharing across stakeholder groups and knowledge communities. The article begins by summarizing important challenges, as expressed by companies at headquarters and operational levels. It then identifies lessons learned and relevant good practices. Finally, it considers progress made to date and assesses the challenges that remain in this field...

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Article
25 January 2016

Beyond Rana Plaza: Next Steps for the Global Garment Industry and Bangladeshi Manufacturers

Author: Motoko Aizawa and Salil Tripathi, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

In April 2013 a factory building called Rana Plaza collapsed in the Bangladeshi capital…Over 1,100 people died in the disaster, and some 2,000 workers were injured, many becoming permanently disabled…This article will discuss the steps international companies have taken in response to the crisis, and the progress since then. It will also show structural problems in the industry and offer suggestions as to the steps that can be undertaken to improve the safety standards and workers’ rights in Bangladesh. The international companies have created two different initiatives—the Accord on Fire And Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord) and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance)…There have been improvements since 2013. The Bangladeshi government increased the minimum wage in the garment sector…The wage rise will do little to improve worker safety…[A] fund…reached its target, to compensate the victims, and to provide lifelong care to those who needed it. But other gaps remain…

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Article
25 January 2016

Book Review: David Karp, Responsibility for Human Rights, Transnational Corporations in Imperfect States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) pp 218.

Author: Nadia Bernaz, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

As discussions about developing international legal rules to enhance the accountability of corporations for human rights violations, perhaps in the form of a business and human rights treaty, are unfolding, David Karp proposes to take a step back in his 2014 book, Responsibility for Human Rights, Transnational Corporations in Imperfect States. ‘Activists’ have been focusing on how to hold corporations to account for human rights violations but this, Karp warns, is ‘premature’. 1 Instead, he suggests, we ought to ask first whether it is even appropriate to assign human rights responsibility to non-state actors, specifically corporations. The book, located in the field of international political theory, then proceeds to answer this question and, rather controversially given the victim-orientated inclination in the business and human rights field, concludes that in many circumstances corporations cannot be said to bear such responsibility.

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Article
25 January 2016

Book Review: Penelope Simons and Audrey Macklin, The Governance Gap: Extractive Industries, Human Rights and the Home State Advantage (London: Routledge, 2014) pp xxxvii+422.

Author: Nomonde Nyembe, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

…[T]his book comes at the ideal time, as it posits a solution for extraction-related human rights impunity by transnational corporations (TNCs). Penelope Simons and Audrey Macklin’s The Governance Gap: Extractive Industries, Human Rights, and the Home State Advantage attempts to do three things: (i) highlight the potential human rights impact of Global North companies’ extraction in the Global South; (ii) note the national, regional, and international instruments and mechanisms designed to ensure human rights compliance by corporate entities, and their failures; and (iii) suggest the regulation of companies by countries in the Global North in which they are domiciled (i.e. home states)…In this book, Simons and Macklin take the reader on an enlightening and harrowing storytelling journey into the nature of human rights violations using Talisman as an example. They set out efforts made by civil society and governments to bring Talisman’s complicity in the violations in Sudan to an end...

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Article
25 January 2016

Book Review: ‘Business and Human Rights’ from Donaldson to Ruggie – A Review of a Classic Book: Thomas Donaldson, The Ethics of International Business (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989) pp 224.

Author: Georges Enderle, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

…[O]ne may recall several…events that happened in…1989…[T]hese events…brought about enormous opportunities for global expansion…However, as John Ruggie reported later, there has been a ‘fundamental institutional misalignment’…[which] has created ‘the permissive environment within which blameworthy acts by corporations may occur without adequate sanctioning or reparation’…Therefore…several initiatives have been launched to address the ethical challenges facing international business…Against this brief historical backdrop, I would like to explore and acknowledge Donaldson’s contribution to the evolving discussion on business and human rights, using his book of 1989 as the starting point and the United Nations Framework…with its Guiding Principles (GPs), developed by Ruggie for the UN Human Rights Council, as the current point of arrival. By following this trajectory, I intend to highlight the strengths of Donaldson’s project, which has stood the test of time, to discuss some critical points on the way to the UN Framework, and to conclude with a few open questions for further scrutiny and elaboration...

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Article
25 January 2016

Chinese Internet Business and Human Rights

Author: Min Jiang, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

The dubious human rights record of foreign internet companies in China has been the subject of popular and scholarly scrutiny. This article surveys three recent developments in the intersection of information technology and human rights in China: (i) the rise and fall of Chinese social media firms (Sina Weibo and WeChat) and the prospect for advancing human rights via Chinese tech companies; (ii) the social impacts of foreign internet firms currently operating in China; and (iii) Chinese internet businesses’ ‘going out’ strategy and its human rights ramifications abroad…[T]he primary concern of this essay is the right to speech on the Chinese internet…[T]he PRC’s spectacular economic growth in the past four decades, which has lifted more than 500 million people out of poverty, is without doubt a remarkable achievement of economic and social human rights. However, progress in the political realm has lagged far behind…[Also refers to Apple, Baidu, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla.]

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Article
25 January 2016

Community-Driven Operational Grievance Mechanisms

Author: Jonathan Kaufman and Katherine McDonnell, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

…For…locals who have been displaced to make way for new factories, Thilawa [one of Myanmar’s first Special Economic Zones (SEZ)] has been synonymous with loss of land and livelihoods…To the Myanmar Government, JICA…and potential investors…the SEZ is a ticket to a better life for the displaced villagers…Stung by international criticism…JICA has triggered a review of the Thilawa project, with a special emphasis on the impact on local livelihoods... A centrepiece of this review is the establishment of a grievance mechanism…This article describes a new way to approach grievance resolution…that the displaced residents of Thilawa are pioneering with the co-operation of EarthRights International (ERI)…: the community-driven operational grievance mechanism (CDOGM). Our model proceeds from a simple premise: if we want dispute resolution processes to promote human rights…then those processes should be designed and approved by the affected persons…rather than those who are believed to have caused the problems in the first place.

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Article
25 January 2016

Company Responses to Human Rights Reports: An Empirical Analysis

Author: Menno T. Kamminga, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

How do companies respond to their critics? Are there significant differences in responsiveness between industrial sectors, between the countries in which companies are based, and between the companies themselves? Do responses reflect the belief that companies have a responsibility to respect human rights? Do companies that participate in the UN Global Compact react more responsibly than those that do not? This article attempts to answer these questions by examining company responses to civil society reports contained in the company response database of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. The analysis covers responses to 1877 requests made by the Resource Centre from 2005–2014. [Also refers to Aditya Birla Group, AngloGold Ashanti, Apple, Banco Espírito Santo, Barrick Gold, BHP Billiton, Chevron, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China Power Investment, Endiama (Empresa Nacional de Diamantes de Angola), Foxconn (part of Hon Hai), Gilead Sciences, Glencore, Goldcorp, Golden Star Resources, Hindalco (part of Aditya Birla Group), Hon Hai ,Huawei Technologies, Microsoft Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE), Newmont, Nike, ONGC (Oil & Natural Gas Corporation), Shell, Walmart, and  Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).]

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Article
25 January 2016

Engineering and Human Rights: Teaching Across the Divide

Author: Shareen Hertel and Allison MacKay, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

College students are among the world’s most avid consumers of new technologies…and…increasingly view ethical consumption as a way to express their politics in action…The few who are attuned to such issues frequently lack the technical skills for cross-disciplinary analysis of contemporary business challenges…Students are typically trained either in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, or in the social sciences…but not in both. This article explores a vehicle for closing the gap: an undergraduate seminar that explicitly integrates students from the STEM fields within an existing human rights minor curriculum at the University of Connecticut. Our seminar on ‘Assessment for Human Rights & Sustainability’ is central to an emerging track of courses…that equip students…to work together to understand the social and environmental limits that constrain contemporary business. The course we have developed exposes students to the core concepts of human rights and sustainability in global supply chains…

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