University of Chicago Human Rights Program Presents:
Saturday April 30, 2011
Corporate Social Responsibility: A New Business Framework for Human Rights
List of Presentation Abstracts
- Peter Benson, Washington University in St. Louis
The Tobacco Haze of Capitalism
In the last decade the tobacco industry switched from its conventional method of responding to critique, involving denial of harm and opposition to regulation, to a corporate social responsibility model that includes active involvement in crafting tobacco control legislation and corporate philanthropy. This paper explores some of the economic and ethical paradoxes of this transformation, with case materials drawn from tobacco industry activity and influence in the United States and Latin America. While interrogating what corporate responsibility means given the inherently harmful nature of tobacco products, this paper develops a broader discussion of the ethics of responsibility in advanced market economies.
- Lauren Coyle, University of Chicago
Dual Legal Regimes, Restructured Development, and the Complexities of Extractive CSR in Ghana
This talk will examine "Corporate Social Responsibility" as a central site of tensions in sovereignty, citizenship, and kinship in Ghana in the wake of its structural adjustment reforms, with particular reference to the gold-mining industry. In particular, this presentation will address the ways in which CSR operates through the colonial legacy of two parallel legal systems — one "customary," the other under the jurisdiction of the state — which has become central to the framing of contemporary nationhood in Ghana. This centrality flows, in significant part, from the constitutional enlistment of both state and traditional authorities in provisioning and policing the nation's overlapping (and often conflicting) property regimes, alongside the increasingly important shadow sovereigns of private transnational corporations,which secure permits and other forms of resource and labor access through the liberalized dual legal regime. Gold mining, Ghana's most lucrative extractive industry, is perhaps the site of contests over land and resources fought under the dual legal legacy of colonialism, as indigenous peoples, traditional authorities, corporations, and the state seek to benefit from its yield. This talk will explore CSR as a critical register for intensifying conflict over the "development paradox" of the vast economic success of Ghana's gold industry since the liberalization reforms and the industry's concomitant, profound, and arguably worsening effects on the livelihoods and social formations of the local social groups that it most directly impacts.
- Susan Farbstein, Harvard University Law School
Alien Tort Statute Litigation and Corporate Social Responsibility
For the past fifteen years, corporations have been subject to suit under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) for violations of fundamental human rights. This presentation will examine the successes and limitations of ATS litigation in deterring corporate behavior and providing remedies to affected communities. It will also consider how ATS suits might better complement other CSR efforts, and the future of such litigation in the wake of the Second Circuit's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.
- Kim Fortun, Rensselaer University
Industrial Culture, the Petro-Chemical Complex and Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategems, Spoils and Science.
The presentation will examine how industrial culture sets the stage for and enables contemporary corporate social responsibility, particularly in the petro-chemical industry. It also will examine the strategies through which the petrochemical industry has sought to demonstrate the safety and necessity of its products, in a era of rising concerns about adverse effects on human health and the environment. The end game isn't only about safety assurances, however. It is also about what counts as good science, and scientific risk assessment.
- Tyler Giannini, Harvard Law School
Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives in Corporate Social Responsibility
Multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) are voluntary collaborations between industry, civil society, affected communities, and occasionally governments to set industry-wide standards relating to human rights. There has been a surge in their number and membership over the last decade, and they are now recognized as a core instrument in the effort to encourage businesses to act consistently with human rights standards. However, many MSIs lack even a basic level of transparency and there is growing concern that that some ineffective MSIs may be doing more harm than good. This presentation will examine how one measures the effectiveness of MSIs, including basic minimum standards expected of MSIs as well as best practices of such initiatives.
- Richard Joseph, Northwestern University
The Corporate Sector and Remaking Nigeria: Pathways from the Predicament
Nigeria is usually associated with corruption, Internet scams, and endemic conflicts. Following the April 2011 elections, likely to be the best the country has known in almost two decades, Africa's most populous nation will again have the opportunity to achieve rapid political and economic gains. Little known or acknowledged has been the role played by its corporate sector among forces pushing for reforms across a wide area of public life. Nigeria can be a leader in Africa, and internationally, in the dynamism of its business sector as well as the social responsibility of medium- and large-scale entrepreneurs.
- Caroline Kaeb, Northwestern University School of Law
The New Power of "Connectedness:" Lessons from the ICT sector for a new CSR paradigm
The digital age has unlocked unprecedented opportunities to amplify impact and create new solutions for business and society. With "connectedness" being the new power of the 21st century, this work argues that the ICT sector has been in a unique position to spearhead an innovative, progressive, and proactive approach to human rights as related to its business operations. Google's course of resistance against government censorship in China illustrates how freedom (of expression) ties into Google's core business to facilitate access to information and how it informs its strategic decision making, thus creating a "freedom market." The recent developments in Egypt and across the Middle East reaffirm the catalyst function of digital networks to generate systematic social impact and confirm that the responsibility to advance human rights is inherently linked to these companies' capacities to conduct business. Cisco's "good for business and society" paradigm is another example delivering on this premise.
These recent developments shed new light on the role of corporations in modern day society and point to synergies between business and societal interests. New realities have facilitated a paradigm shift where CSR is no longer a politically correct add on, but primarily good business practices that will help business thrive. Acknowledging that ICT companies' business model intersects with human rights in a unique way, this study argues that it also provides valuable lessons beyond the ICT sector that can inform a new way forward for companies across all sectors by aligning business and societal values.
- Stuart Kirsch
Virtuous Language: CSR in the Academy and Industry
Recent corporate deployment of virtuous language should be understood as a response to shifting relations between corporations and their critics. Until the 1990s, the mining industry was content to travel under the radar of public opinion. Yet, with the rise of new forms of critique by NGOs and indigenous movements, expanded capacity to access and share information through the Internet, the formation of transnational action networks, and pressure from international legal action, the industry has been forced to respond to changing political conditions. This paper analyzes how the mining industry has appropriated larger discursive formations based on virtuous language (including corporate social responsibility and sustainability) in response to these new strategies of opposition.
- Elise McCarthy
Collaboration/competition: the potential in CR networks for changing corporate culture
United Nations Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, John Ruggie, has recently published multi-dimensional guiding principles for states and business in relation to the human rights within corporate responsibility worldwide. Where state action of the kind Ruggie recommends is muted in relation to corporate responsibility in Ireland, the potential he sees in business efforts rings true. This paper will discuss the power that CR advocates and interested companies are activating voluntarily to enlist and improve corporate responsibility among businesses in Ireland.
- William Reno, Northwestern University
CSR and International Regulation of Corporate Engagement with Parties to Armed Conflicts
Regulatory frameworks such as the Kimberley Process targeted on the trade in "blood diamonds" and efforts to prosecute commercial actors for the war crime of pillage encounter two deeply entrenched global norms. The first norm accords recognition of sovereignty as a right that forecloses decertification of sovereign status. The second recognizes a right of a people to overthrow a government that acts against their common interests. Contemporary applications of CSR tend to privilege sovereign actors and disproportionately affect rebel groups and their commercial partners. While laudable in terms of providing redress to victims and deterring criminal behavior, the application of CSR in this manner may contribute to the suppression of political change on a wider scale, particularly in the disproportionate targeting of resource channels available to groups in states of rebellion.
- Stephen Schmida, SSG Advisors
USAID and Private Sector Alliances: The Future of Public-Private Partnerships in the US Government
The presentation will focus on the motives and challenges for businesses and USAID in building public-private alliances in areas such as democracy and governance and human rights. Drawing on examples from SSG Advisors' work with USAID around the world, Steve Schmida will seek to demonstrate how alliances, when used in a selectively, can yield better, more sustainable development outcomes.
- Ursula Wynhoven, United Nations Global Compact
Support and Respect for Human Rights: The UN Global Compact and the UN Protect-Respect-Remedy Framework
The United Nations Global Compact calls on business to support and respect human rights as well as to avoid complicity in human rights abuse. This presentation will focus on the complementary relationship between the UN Protect-Respect-Remedy Framework (in particular the corporate responsibility to respect human rights) and the human rights commitments that business participants make in the context of the United Nations Global Compact.
- Anna Zalik, York University
Mechanisms of Consent in Oil and Gas Fields: An Examination of 'Regional' Approaches to Corporate Social Consultation
This presentation examines pan-oil field approaches to community consent employed in key extractive sites, with particular attention to models currently under implementation in Southern Nigeria and North -Western Canada. The adoption of 'global' community relations mechanisms by a number of industrial operators, in the Nigerian case through the 'Global Memorandum of Understanding 'and in Alberta Canada via the Industrial Relations body, shape new governance structures offering formal consultation to industry. Concurrently, these structures both overlap with and in part circumvent established mechanisms of community decision-making, as such eroding the possibility of substantive consultation and accommodation. Parallels between these models across such divergent regions, and in new approaches in the South Western Mexico, express global corporate strategy that aims to prevent legal and protest-oriented response, as such facilitating ongoing extraction.