Whose business?: a handbook on corporate responsibility for human rights and the environment

Whose business?: a handbook on corporate responsibility for human rights and the environment

Key issues driving efforts to promote corporate social responsibility

This handbook aims to provide an introduction to the key issues driving efforts to promote corporate social responsibility and accountability worldwide. It focuses especially on the links between the environment, labor rights, and human rights in the context of globalisation.

The central theme of this handbook is that the institutions and regulatory frameworks now governing the global economy have not adequately protected human rights, the environment, and labor rights. Free markets are not really free: they merely privatize the benefits of globalisation, while socialising the human and environmental costs. Moving to a new paradigm of socially responsible business will require a creative and synergistic combination of popular pressure, corporate initiative, and global regulation. The handbook describes actions being taken at all three levels.

Three case studies of oil company operations spanning Nigeria, Ecuador and the Caspian, and four case studies of high tech company operations spanning India, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan are incorporated along with studies from other industries.

The handbook includes the following chapters:

  • chapter one examines the global context in which multinational corporations operate
  • chapter two outlines the connections among the environmental, labor, and human rights issues that plague MNC operations in developing countries
  • chapter three focuses on the emerging movement to increase the social responsibility and accountability of MNCs. It looks at the tactics and strategies employed by external sources—activists, nonprofit advocates—as well as those used by internal stakeholders—workers, investors, shareholders, and corporate managers themselves. This chapter also discusses how corporations have responded by adopting codes of conduct and exploring other ways to go beyond compliance with existing regulations
  • chapter four examines efforts to set new global rules and guidelines for MNCs. Drawing from existing and emerging international law and agreements, these rules encompass fundamental principles of human rights, labor rights, and environmental protection. This chapter also covers right-to-know laws, which require corporations to disclose information about overseas social and environmental performance

The handbook concludes by suggesting that businesses and civil society groups must refine and redouble their efforts to change, and that any effort to create global standards must be a collaboration among all stakeholders. Public education at all levels—high school, university, adult school, and popular education—is at the center of winning hearts and minds. Young people have an especially important role to play.

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