The starting point of The3rdResearch was my MA Dissertation addressing the question 'Do corporations have a responsibility to respect human rights?'. As a consequence, I believe that the Introduction Chapter will fit very well as a first post in my Blog. It will provide a global picture for the great relevance of the subject. The text below is an excerpt modified with less academic language to facilitate the reading. Resources provisions to research, together with the monitoring and evaluation of existing systems are essential tools for the evolution of the business and human rights issue. I hope you enjoy reading my work.
“Some of the most powerful global actors today are companies, not governments” (Nolan, 2015). We live in the age of large corporations, with a global estimate of 80,000 multinational corporations (Aaronson & Higham, 2014). Some of them are able to generate income equal to a country´s total output, such as Exxon Mobil, or have a workforce of more than two million workers, such as Walmart (Human Rights Watch, 2013, p.29). Since these companies operate on a global scale without a global regulation, there are voices from the civil society and government institutions warning of the persuasion power that these non-state actors exercise over democratically elected states. In fact, the very first attempts to link human rights responsibilities and business began in the 1970s, when the main concerns were companies operating in host countries with a colonial past.
Over the years, there are only some exceptions such as genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity in which customary law may be applied not so much to the corporation itself but to the decision makers. Primarily, this is a consequence derived from the fact that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has only jurisdiction over natural people. Significantly, the idea that human rights should be protected not only as a duty of the government but as a task of non-state actors has recently emerged. As the commentary of the OECD Guidelines suggests, enterprises are expected to behave in accordance with respect for human rights (Cernic, 2015). However, the lack of adequate domestic laws within weak states leads to situations where an effective evaluation of the businesses’ impact activities over the health and well-being of citizens and the environment, is simply impossible.
Precisely, the current supply chain structure has created deliberately a complex conglomerate of companies performing within a subcontracting system. In this system, responsibilities are delegated and elements of the supply chain are regulated under the country´s jurisdiction only. Therefore, it is within this complex environment that governance gaps take place. Those governance gaps create the risk space where human rights might be assaulted by business activity, coupled with state impunity. As a consequence, a number of voluntary mechanisms and private codes, together with domestic laws, have been enforced to regulate and cover these governance gaps.
Fatal events such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 2013 are occasional samples of the serious consequences derived from the lack of a strong regulation of safe working conditions provided by the state and supervised by the parent company. More than 1,000 workers were killed while working for the global garment manufacturing industry. The reaction to the Rana Plaza catastrophe has involved a variety of government and non-state actor. The solutions given have been a mixture of private codes and soft-law regulations - i.e. not binding regulations. Some of them as the “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh” or the “Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety” (Nolan, 2016). Although the Bangladesh government improved some workplace safety conditions, Bangladeshi labour law fails to follow international standards to remain as one of the leaders among the manufacturing industry.
Some authors offer the idea that corporations no longer question whether they have the responsibility to respect human rights (Nolan, 2015) (Wettstein, 2015). They consider that currently the question to address is how to make it possible. However, the reality is that for many companies the reasons to associate their economic activity with the respect for human rights remain abstract and not clear.Consequently, the number of companies that define human rights policies is very small. Moreover, in many cases it is not possible to define a clear and transparent status of what the company does or does not do (Aaronson & Higham, 2014).
Assuming that CEOs, directors, shareholders and other corporations’ stakeholders need a clear explanation to allocate the human rights discourse within the business atmosphere, the investigation carried out in my thesis has two main objectives. First, to show how business activities in a globalised world affect the well-being of the community where they operate, and the importance to a
ddress this fact in a positive and constructive manner. Secondly, to develop the
Regulatory Framework that coordinates corporations’ behaviour in a globalised system according to international and national regulations. We live challenging times where creative ideas are more necessary than ever.
The 3rdResearch aims to all of you with a sense of purpose to join strength and make possible a positive change in people lives.
Aarson, S. A. & Higham I. (2014) Putting the Blame on Governments. Why Firms and Governments have Failed to Advance the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Institute for International Economic Policy Working Paper Series. Elliott School of International Affairs. The George Washington University. IIEP-WP-2014-6.
Cernic, J.L. (2015) ‘Corporate Accountability for Human Rights: From a Top-Down to a Bottom-Up Approach’, in Martin, J. & Bravo, K.E. (eds.) The Business and Human Rights Landscape: Moving Forward, Looking Back. Cambridge. Chapter 7.
Human Rights Watch (2013) World Report. Events of 2012. Human Rights Watch. p.29
Nolan, J. (2015) ‘From Principles to Practices: Implementing Corporate Responsibility for Human Rights’, in Martin, J. & Bravo, K.E. (eds.) The Business and Human Rights Landscape: Moving Forward, Looking Back. Cambridge. Chapter 13.
Nolan, J. (2016) ‘Rana Plaza: the collapse of a factory in Bangladesh and its ramifications for the global garment industry’, in Baumann-Pauly D. & Nolan J. (eds.) Business and Human Rights: From Principles to Practice. Routledge. London. Chapter 1, Section 1.4.
Wettstein, F. (2015) Normativity, Ethics, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: A Critical Assessment. Journal of Human Rights, 14: 168-182, 2015. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.