When rights enter the CSR Field: British firms’ engagement with human rights and the UN Guiding Principles

Favotto, A. and Kollman, K. (2022) When rights enter the CSR Field: British firms’ engagement with human rights and the UN Guiding Principles. Human Rights Review, 23(1), pp. 21-40. (doi: 10.1007/s12142-020-00614-w)

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The adoption of the Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights by the United Nations (UNGPs) in 2011 created a new governance instrument aimed at improving the promotion of human rights by business enterprises. While reaffirming states duties to uphold human rights in law, the UNGPs called on firms to promote the realization of human rights within global markets. The UNGPs thus have sought to embed human rights more firmly within the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and to use CSR practices to improve corporate human rights accountability. In this paper, we explore how this incorporation of human rights into the CSR field has affected the business practices and public commitments British firms have made to promote human rights. We analyse the CSR reports published by the 50 largest British firms over a 20-year period starting in the late 1990s and interview senior CSR managers of these firms. We find that these firms have expanded how they articulate their responsibility for human rights over time. These commitments however remain largely focused on improving management practices such as due diligence and remediation procedures. Firms are often both vague and selective about which substantive human rights they engage with in light of their concerns about their market competitiveness and broader legitimacy. These outcomes suggest that, while firms cannot completely resist the normative pressures exerted by the CSR field, they retain significant resources and agency in translating such pressure into concrete practices.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Kollman, Professor Kelly and Favotto, Dr Alvise
Authors: Favotto, A., and Kollman, K.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Accounting and Finance
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Journal Name:Human Rights Review
ISSN (Online):1874-6306
Published Online:13 April 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in Human Rights Review 23(1): 21-40
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
167459Borderless Politics: Corporate Lobbying in Multiple ArenasKelly KollmanEconomic and Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/I036974/1S&PS - Politics