An Argument for Leverage-Based Business Responsibility for Human Rights
Title: An Argument for Leverage-Based Business Responsibility for Human Rights
Author: WOOD, Stepan
Series/Number: EUI RSCAS; 2011/48; Global Governance Programme-09
Recent debates about “spheres of influence” in the context of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights raised the question of whether companies’ human rights responsibilities arise, in part, from their leverage—their ability to influence the actions of others through their relationships. Special Representative John Ruggie rejected this proposition in the UN Framework for business and human rights. I argue, on the contrary, that leverage is a source of responsibility where there is a morally significant connection between the company and a rights-holder or rights-violator, the company is able to make an appreciable contribution to ameliorating the situation, it can do so at modest cost, and the threat to the rights-holder’s human rights is substantial. In such circumstances companies have a responsibility to exercise leverage even though they did nothing to contribute to the situation. Such responsibility is qualified, not categorical; graduated, not binary; context-specific; practicable; consistent with the specialized social role of business; and not merely a negative responsibility to avoid harm but a positive responsibility to do good.
Subject: corporate responsibility; business and human rights; ISO 26000; sphere of influence
Type of Access: openAccess