BUSINESS ETHICS QUARTERLY, SPECIAL ISSUE, HUMAN RIGHTS AND BUSINESS
Wesley Cragg, Schulich School of Business and Department of Philosophy, York
University, Toronto, Canada
Denis G. Arnold, Belk College of Business, University of North Carolina at Charlotte,
Peter Muchlinski, Professor of International Commercial Law, School of Oriental and
African Studies, University of London, UK
For most of human rights history, ensuring respect for human rights has been thought to be either the primary or the sole responsibility of nation states. In the last two or three decades, however, this assignment of responsibilities has begun to shift in some dramatic ways. Through the 1990’s several influential NGO’s produced reports calling on transnational corporations to assume greater human rights responsibilities. Acknowledgment of human rights responsibilities began to appear in corporate and international codes of ethics. In 2003, after five years of study and debate, the United Nations Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights (2003) were prepared, presented, and debated by the U.N. Commission of Human Rights Sub-commission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights. Most recently, three reports of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, John Ruggie, have undertaken to build the foundations of a general view of the human rights duties of businesses in relation to states.
The work of the U.N. has not connected as directly as it could to the work of scholars
working on corporate citizenship, corporate social responsibility, corporate regulation or
business ethics despite obvious linkages. This special issue seeks, among other things, to foster such linkages and to situate and advance theorizing about the direct, morally or
ethically grounded human rights duties, if any, of corporations and other business
enterprises in current business ethics scholarship and in the effects on the development of legal regulation and legal theory. The general purpose of this special issue of Business Ethics Quarterly, then, is to identify, examine, evaluate and justify the human rights duties of corporations, and to examine and evaluate their foundations, or to argue against such duties. Some of the questions contributors might wish to address include:
• If corporations have human rights duties, are they ethically grounded human rights duties,
or are corporate human rights duties grounded in local and international law, or are
there better or different ways of understanding the nature or development of corporate
duties regarding human rights?
• How are the human rights duties, if any, of corporations presently determined, how should
they be determined, and what social actors (individuals or institutions) should
• If corporations have ethically grounded human rights duties, what is the nature and
justification of those duties?
• Is corporate or industry self-regulation (through codes, industry associations, reports,
independent audits, or other means) a useful tool for setting out and guiding corporate
behaviour with respect human rights?
• If corporations have ethically grounded human rights duties, what roles should national
and international law play in ensuring compliance with such duties?
• What processes or means should be put in place to ensure that the human rights duties of corporations are carried out?
• Are there distinct legal, political, or social tools, systems and procedures that can and
should be developed to help ensure that business duties regarding human rights are
• What are the main regulatory consequences of developing human rights duties for
corporations and how will these shape future developments in, for example, corporate
governance, corporate liability (including corporate group liability), directors’ duties,
shareholder responsibilities, remedies and enforcement and monitoring procedures?
• Corporate human rights obligations and practices have been criticized and assessed fromvarious quarters and perspectives (e.g., the U.N. Ruggie Reports). What assumptions
undergird these criticisms and assessments? Are these assessments conceptually
sound? Do these reports properly characterize corporate and business duties or
responsibilities? Are the reports appropriately informed by the extant business ethics
• Do specific industries or types of companies confront unique human rights challenges that require distinct processes or means for implementation, or should all industries be
expected to adhere to similar processes or means of implementation?
To address these questions, we seek a broad range of submissions—including both
normative, philosophical research and theoretical or empirical (quantitative or qualitative)
social scientific research—and we encourage contributions that make use of, and contribute to, one or more theoretical perspectives that find their place within business ethics or any other relevant fields of inquiry (such as philosophy, jurisprudence, regulatory theory and practice, organization studies, sociology, political science/theory, economics, etc.).Manuscripts should, ideally, make a contribution to our understanding of the human rights duties, if any, of businesses, and to the theoretical perspectives on which any proposed understanding is grounded.
Manuscripts must be submitted electronically by July 30, 2010 using BEQ’s submission
website (http://editorialexpress.com/beq). Manuscripts must conform to BEQ’s normal
submission requirements, which are explained in detail on the “information for contributors” page at http://www.businessethicsquarterly.org. Manuscripts should not exceed 12,000 words and will be blind-reviewed following the journal’s standard process. Be sure to indicate "special issue -‐ human rights and business" in the "comments" section of the online submission form. For further information, contact Guest Editor, Wesley Cragg (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Note: For the purposes of this call the concepts of ethics and morality as well as the concepts of duty and obligation are used interchangeably.