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

Human Rights Responsibility of Multinational Corporations, Political Ecology of Injustice: Learning from Bhopal Thirty Plus?

Author: Upendra Baxi, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

This article addresses human rights responsibilities of multinational corporations (MNCs) in the light of what I describe as the four Bhopal catastrophes. More than thirty years of struggle by the valiant violated people to seek justice is situated in the contemporary efforts of the United Nations to develop a new discursivity for human rights and business—from the Global Compact to the Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights, the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the more recent process to elaborate a legally-binding international instrument.

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Article
25 January 2016

National Action Plans: Current Status and Future Prospects for a New Business and Human Rights Governance Tool

Author: Clair Methven O'Brien, Amol Mehra, Sara Blackwell, and Cathrine Bloch Poulsen-Hansen, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

National Action Plans (NAPs) on business and human rights are a burgeoning phenomenon…Prompted by…other initiatives, a steadily increasing number of governments and non-state actors have now launched NAPs…Every NAP process affirms the UNGPs’ essential tenet that human rights apply within the business sector...Yet, amongst advocates, there are concerns. To date, individual NAPs have been largely declaratory of existing measures and commitments, with few hard promises to take new action…Thus, the question remains: by which means can the greatest, and quickest, improvements in business respect for human rights be achieved? The UNHRC passed two resolutions in 2014, signalling two different possible responses to this question. One…called…for states to develop NAPs. The second resolved to establish an intergovernmental process on the human rights obligations of transnational corporations that…may lead to…a legally enforceable right to remedy for business-related human rights abuses…[W]e suggest, NAPs should now be a topic for sustained analysis and advocacy within the business and human rights field...

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Article
25 January 2016

Negotiating a Treaty on Business and Human Rights: A Review of the First Intergovernmental Session

Author: Carlos Lopez and Ben Shea, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

The first session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group (OEIGWG) on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights took place in Geneva… The mandate of the OEIGWG is set in Human Rights Council Resolution 26/9…: ‘to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises’. The first two…sessions of the OEIGWG are meant to be broad constructive discussions about the scope and content of the prospective treaty. This first session…raised expectations…despite concerns of a likely boycott of the process by Western states….[T]he first session could be described as a qualified success. Although state participation was low and many discussions proved more political than legalistic, there was some meaningful progress. This article reviews the debate during this first meeting, describing the meeting itself, recounting the main substantive debates, and discussing the process and challenges going forward.

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Article
25 January 2016

The Mexican Judiciary's Understanding of the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights

Author: Humberto Cantú Rivera, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

The Latin American region has taken relatively slow steps to develop a regional agenda on business and human rights. It was only in January 2015 that the first meeting on the topic was convened at the Organization of American States…Mexico, an economically and politically powerful state in the region, has been noticeably absent…Mexico has taken few steps to develop a national business and human rights strategy or action plan…Nevertheless…the judicial system of Mexico (and particularly its Supreme Court) has recently resolved some cases that clearly demonstrate the belief that corporations at least have a responsibility to respect human rights, either as a result of societal expectations or as a result of their position in society. This note will briefly address the small preliminary steps that have been taken in domestic policy and case law, and will reflect upon possible ways forward for this topic in the country.

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Article
25 January 2016

The Turn to Contractual Responsibility in the Global Extractive Industry

Author: James Gathii and Ibironke T Odumosu-Ayanu, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

This article argues that there is a newer model of contracting for natural resources that expands the potential for corporate responsibility towards those adversely affected by business activities…The article calls for a renewed focus in exploring enforcement of corporate obligations for impacts to individuals and communities within a contractual framework…These contractual forms demonstrate that the law of contract has evolved from the nineteenth century idea that contracts merely protect the rights of investors without much concern for those who are directly affected by extractive industry operations. By including affected communities…these new contractual forms demonstrate that investors and governments are trustees and that extractive resources must be mobilized for the benefits of their publics. In so doing, we map this turn to contracts between multiple parties…and argue that it affirmatively demonstrates real potential to address or mitigate the absence of remedial and responsibility regimes for the adverse impacts of extractive industry activities…

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Article
25 January 2016

Towards a New Treaty on Business and Human Rights

Author: Olivier De Schutter, Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

This article examines the legal as well as political feasibility of four potential options for a legally-binding international instrument in the area of business and human rights. The four options that the...group may wish to consider...are: (i) to clarify and strengthen the states’ duty to protect human rights... (ii) to oblige states...to report on the adoption and implementation of national action plans on business and human rights; (iii) to impose direct human rights obligations on corporations and establish a new mechanism to monitor compliance with such obligations... (iv) to impose duties of mutual legal assistance on states to ensure access to effective remedies for victims harmed by...corporations. As these options are not mutually exclusive, the author argues that a hybrid instrument building on elements of the first and the fourth option may be the best way forward...[Also refers to Chevron and Rossing Uranium Ltd.]

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Article
22 January 2016

Blog: Business and Human Rights in the American legal academy

Author: Anita Ramasastry, Cambridge Journals Blog (UK)

"Business and Human Rights in the American legal academy", 21 Jan 2016

... much of U.S. legal scholarship has looked inward. Many law review articles have focused on developing legal doctrines and tests for corporate complicity in lawsuits under the U.S. Alien Tort Statute (ATS).... We have come a long way from the early days of the ATS when a plethora of law review articles focused on tests for corporate complicity.  Lawyers from around the globe are now developing new models and theories of human rights litigation as well as use of a variety of non-judicial mechanisms... U.S. lawyers and scholars can benefit from engaging in comparative discourse and learning how management scholars reflect on incentives for corporate actors to embrace human rights in their business operations. Looking outward may help us to imagine and fashion new business and human rights policies and processes within the U.S...

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Article
22 June 2015

Blog: Corporate Responsibility: All Eyes on Human Rights

Author: Florian Wettstein, Cambridge Journals Blog (UK)

“Corporate Responsibility: All Eyes on Human Rights”, 08 Jun 2015

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is losing steam. Many…corporations have embraced it, but too often they seem to look at it merely as a new source for growth and profits or as an act of charity, rather than as a philosophy that transforms the way they do business…CSR, such is the impression, is lacking force and overall impact, and it has not kept what it once promised…Business and Human Rights (BHR) has become one of the most relevant debates in the broader realm of corporate responsibility and it has matured into an academic field in its own right…A broad consensus is emerging today that companies have a responsibility at least to respect human rights, which is independent of local laws and regulations…BHR may be able to correct…some of the alleged shortcomings of CSR...It is against this background that we are launching the Business and Human Rights Journal (BHRJ) as a necessary and important step in the institutionalization of this young inter-discipline. Our hope is to contribute further to the growth and development of this important discussion, to help bridge legal and non-legal conversations on the topic and, not least, to foster meaningful dialogue between theory and practice.

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Article
22 January 2015

Business and Human Rights Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1

Author: Cambridge University Press

  • Corporate Moral Agency and the Responsibility to Respect Human Rights in the UN Guiding Principles: Do Corporations Have Moral Rights?, Patricia H Werhane
  • Human Rights Responsibility of Multinational Corporations, Political Ecology of Injustice: Learning from Bhopal Thirty Plus?, Upendra Baxi
  • Towards a New Treaty on Business and Human Rights, Olivier De Schutter
  • The Turn to Contractual Responsibility in the Global Extractive Industry, James Gathii and Ibironke T Odumosu-Ayanu
  • Company Responses to Human Rights Reports: An Empirical Analysis, Menno T. Kamminga
  • Negotiating a Treaty on Business and Human Rights: A Review of the First Intergovernmental Session, Carlos Lopez and Ben Shea
  • National Action Plans: Current Status and Future Prospects for a New Business and Human Rights Governance Tool, Claire Methven O’Brien and Amol Mehra and Sara Blackwell and Cathrine Bloch Poulsen-Hansen
  • Community-Driven Operational Grievance Mechanisms Jonathan Kaufman and Katherine Mcdonnell
  • The Mexican Judiciary’s Understanding of the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights, Humberto Cantú Rivera
  • Chinese Internet Business and Human Rights, Min Jiang
  • Beyond Rana Plaza: Next Steps for the Global Garment Industry and Bangladeshi Manufacturers, Motoko Aizawa and Salil Tripathi
  • Addressing Security and Human Rights Challenges in Complex Environments, Alan Bryden and Lucía Hernández
  • Engineering and Human Rights: Teaching Across the Divide, Shareen Hertel and Allison MacKay 

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