A gap in the corporate responsibility to respect human rights

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    The Human Rights Council received well the ‘protect, respect, remedy’ framework that the SRSG for business and human rights, John Ruggie, presented in 2008 and his mandate was renewed for another 3 years. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights is defined narrowly for abuses linked to business activities only. In the same time, the SRSG remarks that conduct in the form of both acts and omissions can fail the responsibility to respect. This article analyses how the SRSG has dealt with a special type of culpable business conduct (omissions as opposed to commissions) of a special business actor (the controlling entity within a business group as opposed to mere affiliates or independent businesses). On what legitimate grounds should the omissions of parent companies be deemed blameworthy and to what extent are issues that the SRSG has not properly differentiated from other cases of business misconduct. The SRSG relies on the concept of “complicity”, which he employs to explain cases of corporate involvement in third parties’ misconduct and took note of jurisprudence, but the incorporation of those insights is partial and the conceptualization is half-baked. An assessment of SRSG’s reports reveals that they lack a proper scheme of attribution to deal with situations where harm caused by third parties gets attributed to the inactive parent company. The result is a hole at the heart of the responsibility to respect. This article explains the problem and considers ways forward to strengthening the foundation of the responsibility to respect in order to go forward in clarifying its scope.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)33-83
    Number of pages64
    JournalMonash University Law Review
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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