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Edited by Stephen Tully
Chapter 17: The Interaction between Corporate Codes of Conduct and International Law: A Study of Women and Children in the Textile Industry
Olga Martin-Ortega and Rebecca M.M. Wallace Introduction The topography of international business activity is now punctuated by the plethora of voluntary codes. Although such codes are commendable they nevertheless should have some point of reference, rooted in international law. This is imperative if basic human rights are to be effectively guaranteed. The guarantee of such rights should not spawn a multinational industry whereby alleged adherence to human rights is reduced to another quality check akin to ticking a box. Subscribing to human rights should be undertaken by international businesses in respect for uniformly acknowledged standards rather than simply responding to the advice of their public relations office. Corporate codes, however stringent and robust they may appear, are the offspring of corporate discretion to afford human rights a privileged and hallowed position. This is because companies, the addressees of codes, decide their content and furthermore enjoy the power to investigate and police themselves. Although the full glare of adverse publicity has fallen upon some companies, such ‘external scrutiny’ has, however, been indiscriminate and random. The protection of human rights within the workplace demands more than a piecemeal ad hoc approach. Do the current codes reflect internationally accepted norms? If so, is this the result of deliberate effort on the part of multinationals or merely fortuitous coincidence? Why is a reference to international law desirable? The authors will explore these questions with particular reference to the protection afforded to two vulnerable groups, women and children, within one employment sector, the textile industry.1...
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