Chapter 2: The United Nations – Soft and Hard: Regulating Social Accountability for Global Business
Christina Garsten INTRODUCTION: CORPORATE GLOBALITY AND REGULATORY ASPIRATIONS The nature and scale of recent waves of economic globalization has created a world that is more interdependent than ever before. During the last decades, there has been a growth in international trade and ﬁnancial relationships, and a corresponding expansion in the power of large transnational corporations and ﬁnancial institutions. A growing number of corporations operate across boundaries in ways that exceed the regulatory capacities of any one national system. The expanded presence of transnational corporations on the global scene implies that these organizations are positioned to exert signiﬁcant inﬂuence in societies around the world. Many command resources that are formidably large in relation to those at the disposal of various groups and organizations within a nation state. Whether for good or for ill, their impact can be wide ranging, impinging on both the economic factors and the environmental, social and cultural patterns, and thereby on human rights. Notwithstanding the contribution of transnational companies to economic progress, there is continuing and rising concern about aspects of their conduct and impact. Corporations are under pressure from customers, suppliers, employees, communities, investors, activist organizations and other stakeholders to adopt or expand social accountability eﬀorts. But governments ﬁnd it increasingly diﬃcult to rein them in. International regulation by governments primarily addresses corporate rights rather than corporate social responsibilities. Transboundary accountability issues have triggered an erosion of the eﬀectiveness and legitimacy of state-based accountability, not least because democratic political accountability is...
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