Business and Human Rights
Show Less

Business and Human Rights

Edited by Wesley Cragg

Topics discussed include the debates leading to the creation of the ISO 26000 standard and the United Nations human rights framework for business entities, as well as the nature and limits of the human rights responsibilities of business, the roles and responsibilities of international trade bodies like the World Trade Organization in protecting human rights, and the implications of the current debate for international trade agreements and trade with China. The contributors also explore the effectiveness of voluntary human rights standards in the textile and clothing trade, mining, advertising and the pharmaceutical industries.
Buy Book in Print
Show Summary Details
You do not have access to this content

Chapter 5: The case for leverage-based corporate human rights responsibility

Stepan Wood


In the field of business and human rights, should a company’s ‘leverage’ over other actors with whom it has a relationship–that is, its ability to influence their decisions or activities for better or worse–give rise to responsibility, rendering it answerable for its exercise or failure to exercise such leverage? I argue that the answer is a qualified yes: leverage is one factor giving rise to responsibility even where the company is not itself contributing adverse human rights impacts. The case for leverage-based responsibility has not been articulated clearly in the scholarly literature. Instead this issue tends to be subsumed in debates about ‘sphere of influence’ (SOI) and complicity, with which it overlaps only partially. One of the few commentators to address the issue head-on is the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie (SRSG), who explicitly rejected leverage as a basis for the business responsibility to respect human rights (United Nations, 2008a, 2008b, p. 18). In this chapter I attempt to supply the missing normative argument in favor of leverage-based responsibility and in the process answer the SRSG’s critique. It is necessary first to distinguish three issues that are often obscured in debates about leverage and SOI: first, the relationship between companies’ impacts on human rights and their leverage over other actors; second, the relationship between negative and positive forms of responsibility; and third, the relationship between companies’ human rights obligations and their optional efforts to support human rights.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information

or login to access all content.