JUST BUSINESS by John Ruggie


Multinational Corporations and Human Rights
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A discussion of the creation of a new global standard for business and human rights.

The rapid growth of multinational corporations in the 1990s created “permissive environments for wrongful acts by companies without adequate sanctions or reparations,” writes Ruggie (Human Rights and International Affairs/Kennedy School of Government), who, in 2005, was named special assistant to then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to establish guidelines for corporations in relation to human rights. Multinationals grew rapidly in scope and power during that period, outsourcing production to low-cost, often remote areas of the world, yet they were not subject to global regulation. Ruggie discusses familiar cases of business-related human rights abuses—working conditions in Indonesian plants making Nike products, Shell’s conflict with local communities in Nigeria, etc.—and recounts his six-year stint developing the widely hailed U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which detail how businesses and governments can help ensure that corporations respect human rights in their own operations and through their business relationships. When he started his work, fewer than 100 of the world’s 80,000 multinational corporations had any policies in place regarding the risk of their involvement in human rights controversies. Now there is “an unprecedented international alignment” behind the belief that states must protect human rights, companies must respect them, and those who are harmed must have redress. Unlike mandatory or voluntary responses to such issues, the new global standard makes respecting rights an integral part of business and relies on “a smart mix of reinforcing policy measures” to encourage long-term change. Ruggie believes his heterodox approach will lead to more effective human rights protection and may also prove useful in addressing other global governance gaps, such as climate change.

A valuable resource for business leaders and policymakers.

Pub Date: March 25th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-393-06288-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2013


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