The History of ‘Business and Human Rights’ and its Relationship with ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’
There is a tendency today to interpret business and human rights (BHR) as a part or a subset of broader corporate social responsibility (CSR) approaches. However, a closer look at the history of both discussions shows that the relationship between CSR and BHR is more complex. While the two movements may seem similar, compatible or complementary in promoting responsible business conduct on the surface, CSR may turn out to be counter-productive to the BHR agenda at a more fundamental level. The argument supporting this view proceeds in three steps. First, the chapter traces the historical evolution of the BHR movement from its origins to its current institutionalization in policy, in practice and as an academic field. The second step outlines the main conceptual and practical differences between BHR and CSR. More specifically, it substantiates the view of BHR as a critique of CSR and elaborates on CSR’s potential to slow rather than to bolster and support current progress in BHR. This second step is informed by the historical insights in the first part. The third step draws some conclusions and implications from the first two. Specifically, it briefly outlines and assesses three different scenarios for the future of BHR: (1) coexistence between the two discussions; (2) cooptation of BHR by CSR frameworks; (3) replacement of CSR by BHR.
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Research Handbook on Human Rights and Business
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