Collective Responsibility and Transnational Corporate Conduct

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International, business and human rights law


The merits of corporate criminal liability as opposed to individual liability for corporate wrong-doing have been frequently debated at the domestic level in many jurisdictions and regulatory contexts. In international human rights law recent debates have focused upon whether corporations can bear direct obligations for violations of international law. This is particularly contentious where the conduct at issue falls short of violating the egregious norms of international criminal law. This chapter first examines legal and philosophical debates over collective responsibility of corporate entities in the domestic context. Next, the 2008 UN Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework for Business and Human Rights is presented, which identifies both the state duty to protect rights and the corporate responsibility to respect rights as two of three differentiated but complementary pillars. The chapter concludes by suggesting that any study of collective responsibility for transnational corporate conduct must consider both the collective responsibility of corporations and the collective responsibility of states. By drawing upon insights from other contributors to this volume, the chapter reveals the blind spots of international law that shield the collective responsibility of home states, despite the significance of their role as institutional agents of the global economic order.