Closing the Governance Gap
Corporations, Globalisation and the Law series
Chapter 8: Voluntary codes and the UN Guiding Principles
Paralleling, and perhaps not unconnected with, the development of home State litigation the last 15 years have seen the corporate embrace of the corporate social responsibility agenda, with corporations adopting human rights policies and triple bottom line reporting policies. A series of voluntary initiatives have emerged for corporations to sign up to, particularly in the problematic extractive sector. This so-called ‘soft law’ approach has an obvious appeal to corporations as it entails no legal commitment. This is TNCs doing it for themselves. In 2011 this voluntary approach culminated with the endorsement in June 2011 of John Ruggie’s ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework’ by the UN Human Rights. On 31 January 1999 in a speech in Davos, Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched a call for business leaders to combine with the UN to initiate a global compact whereby business would embrace, support and enact a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, and environmental practices. The Global Compact, a global CSR initiative based on voluntary business membership, was officially launched in a meeting in New York in July 2000. Its initial membership comprised businesses plus representatives from UN agencies, NGOs and trade unions. The Global Compact initially contained nine principles, which became ten in 2004. To join the Global Compact a company must indicate its continuing support for these principles and its intention to implement them.
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