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Findings from the CHRD



Image by Kartikay Sharma

This book explores the varying experiences in accessing remedy mechanisms for corporate human rights abuse and puts forward a novel theory about the characteristics of corporate-community confrontations that shape governance outcomes. This foundation informs three pathways that victims can use to press for their rights: working within the institutional environment, capitalizing on corporate characteristics, and elevating their voices.

Seeking Justice provides the first-ever systematic analysis of an original, longitudinal dataset—the Corporations and Human Rights Dataset—which includes over 1,300 corporate human rights abuses across Latin America from 2000 to 2014.

What Seeking Justice is about—at its heart—is confrontation about democratic institutions and economic markets; about respect for human rights and demands for economic growth; about making voices heard through productive contestation and strengthening pathways to remedy. It brings to bear tough questions about the trade-offs associated with economic growth and conflicting values around human dignity—questions that are very salient today, as citizens around the globe contemplate the type of democratic and economic systems that might better prepare us for tomorrow.



The third pillar of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights—access to remedy—seeks to ensure that when corporate human rights abuses do occur, victims have appropriate and effective remedy. Yet, some have observed that this pillar has received the
least amount of attention from the scholarly and policy communities. This white paper--prepared for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights--asks: What types of corporate human rights abuse occur? Do victims have access to judicial and non-judicial remedy? Given the broad array of non-judicial grievance mechanisms, what types are most frequently used? And, in what ways are grievance mechanisms used in tandem? We also provide insights specific to ARP III as well as other lessons about business and human rights, more generally.

City Center

Multinational enterprises are aware of their responsibility to protect human rights now more than ever, but severe human rights violations, including physical integrity abuses (e.g., death, torture, disappearances), continue unabated. To explore this puzzle, we engage theoretically with the means-ends decoupling literature to examine if and when oil and gas firms’ policies and practices prevent severe human rights abuse. We identify two pathways to mitigate means-ends decoupling: (a) while human rights policies alone do not reduce human rights abuses, firms with a high-quality human rights policy over the long-term reduce severe human rights abuses; (b) firms that combine preparedness—which we define as a firm’s capabilities, practices, and engagement—with a long-term human rights policy also reduce the likelihood of human rights abuses. Preparedness, we argue, can lead to reinforcement dynamics between long-term policy efforts and additional capabilities that provide a more holistic understanding of firm behavior.

Image by Kartikay Sharma


Today’s scholarship and policymaking on business and human rights (BHR) emphasizes the need for businesses to better understand their human rights responsibilities and remedy them when and if abuses do occur. Despite the public discourse about businesses and human rights, the state remains an important actor in the regulatory framework, as it is the main duty bearer in international human rights law. We argue that the existing literature on corporate complicity, which describes how companies directly or indirectly participate in state-perpetrated human rights violations, does not convey the complexity of the phenomenon of business and state involvement to violate human rights. Instead, we develop the term economic complicity to shed light on the state’s role in perpetrating abuses in the corporate context, by which we mean abuses that occur within a corporation’s sphere of influence, such as police violence toward protests or granting environmental licenses without adhering to legally required community consultations. We ask: What contributes to the state’s engagement in economic complicity in corporate human rights abuses? We use data about economic complicity in Latin America from the Corporations and Human Rights Database (CHRD) to test three hypotheses emergent from the democratic change and development studies literatures. This research has important theoretical implications for the business ethics and BHR literatures, as understanding economic complicity helps underscore the need for businesses actors to avoid shirking their moral responsibilities to not only ’do no harm’ but also protect human rights.

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