Corporate Social Responsibility: A Human Rights Perspective


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a growing global phenomenon. The idea is not without controversy and confusion though. At the present moment CSR activities are carried out more as a promotional affair motivated on philanthropy. Corporations may or may not do any CSR activities at their own volition. On top it there is no real legal obligation to perform them in an organised manner to attain an unified end. CSR activities are largely carried out sparingly. Very few legal initiatives have been introduced in a handful of states. Yet, large number of corporations still remains unaccounted for. Corporations can be and are quite often mighty powerful and their operations can pose serious threat to the rights of the people and the environment. The experience, in particular, oil, foot-ware, and apparel industries in the developing countries are not pleasant indeed. Even after that corporation too often will escape their liability under international law on grounds of state sovereignty and non-intervention into internal affairs as well as lack of personality. In that event, tightening national enforcement regime might become a potent weapon. This paper addresses these issues alongside the general corporate concern of wealth maximisation of the shareholders. The paper argues that violation of human rights and complicity in violation of human rights are issues of national as well as international law. The growing trend of conferring personality to international organisations is only a demand of time for greater global justice. However, to these entire process international human rights regime can be the perfect launching pad and a suitable point of reference. International human rights normative framework is based upon universal consensus and is the most effective global standard to measure the conduct of state and non-state actors. The framework is devoid of ambiguity and it imposes genuine implementation obligation upon the actors. Furthermore, it can influence the policy dialogue and change the rhetoric in favour of corporate conduct that is directed towards the protection and promotion of human rights. Both human rights and corporations become beneficiaries in this integrated approach. Corporations become more socially embedded enhancing its sustainability and profitability in the long run. Human rights regime benefits as well since it ushers a new avenue for implementation and realisation of human rights spreading the manual and language of human rights into more and more spheres and particularly in an important sphere of corporate activities and influence.

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