Examining the Ruggie Report: Can Voluntary Guidelines Tame Global Capitalism?

Abstract

In recent years many academics, social activists and NGOs have turned to international bodies in an attempt to hold corporations accountable for their harmful and illegal acts. Significant amongst these is the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on issues of human rights and transnational corporations. In 2008, following extensive research and consultation with states, corporations and civil society groups, the Special Representative released a series of guidelines outlining the responsibilities of states and corporations to respect human rights, and of both to ensure access to effective judicial and non-judicial remedies for victims. This paper argues that the UN guidelines fail to recognize or incorporate the empirically and historically demonstrated imperatives that guide transnational global capitalism. While global capitalism is complex and rife with contradictions, its raison d’etre is rooted in profit maximization. The paper sets out alternative provisions with, we argue, greater potential to subject global capital to the rule of law.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    This information was gathered from Ruggie’s reports, corporate social responsibility and media reports and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (www.business-humanrights.org).

  2. 2.

    See: http://www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/community_rights_respect.aspx.

  3. 3.

    See: http://www.global-business-initiative.org/SRSGpage/files/Guiding%20Principles%20Endorsement%20from%20Coke.pdf.

  4. 4.

    See: http://www.global-business-initiative.org/SRSGpage/files/GE%20letter%20to%20John%20Ruggie.pdf.

  5. 5.

    See: http://www.gecitizenship.com/our-commitment-areas/human-rights/.

  6. 6.

    See: http://www.chevron.com/globalissues/humanrights/.

  7. 7.

    See Chevron, About our human rights policy, online: http://www.chevron.com/documents/pdf/AboutOurHumanRightsPolicy.pdf.

  8. 8.

    The Working Group recognizes that work remains to improve upon the “limited” knowledge, and implementation, of the Guiding Principles.

  9. 9.

    As Ross (2000) notes, states of all shapes and sizes are guilty of human rights violations, placing them in a contradictory position when contemplating measures to confront international human rights violations. From this perspective, if states are unwilling and/or incapable of holding themselves accountable for human rights violations, why would they take decisive action to hold corporations to account for similar acts?

  10. 10.

    This situation is further complicated by the fact that international bodies such as the International Criminal Court appear disinterested in turning their attention towards strengthening state capacity to discipline rogue corporations (Mullins and Roth 2010).

References

  1. Abbott, L. (2012). Allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in Unilever’s Kericho plantation, Kenya: A case study of due diligence and certification processes. http://www.business-humanrights.org/Links/Repository/1012395. Accessed on June 20, 2012.

  2. Barak, G. (2012). Financially respectable crimes of wall street. http://www.crimetalk.org.uk/. Accessed on August 20, 2012.

  3. Bartholomew, A., & Breakspear, J. (2004). Human rights as swords of empire. In L. Panitch & C. Leys (Eds.), The new imperial challenge: Socialist register 2004. Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bilchitz, D. (2010). The Ruggie framework: An adequate rubric for corporate human rights obligations? SUR: International Journal on Human Rights, 12. www.surjournal.org/eng.

  5. Bittle, S. (2012). Still dying for a living: Corporate criminal liability after the Westray Mine disaster. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Centeno, M., & Cohen, J. (2010). Global capitalism: A sociological perspective. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Chambliss, W. J., Michalowski, R., & Kramer, R. C. (Eds.). (2010). State crime in the global age. Cullompton: Willan Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Conor, M. (2011). Business and human rights: Interview with John Ruggie. Business and Ethics: The Magazine of Corporate Social Responsibility. http://business-ethics.com/2011/10/30/8127-un-principles-on-business-and-human-rights-interview-with-john-ruggie/. Accessed on June 20, 2012.

  9. Couch, C. (2011). The strange non-death of neoliberalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Friedrichs, D. O. (2010). Trusted criminals: White collar crime in contemporary society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Fudge, J., & Cossman, B. (2002). Introduction. In J. Fudge & B. Cossman (Eds.), Privatization, law and the challenge to feminism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Glasbeek, H. (2002). Wealth by stealth: Corporate crime, corporate law, and the perversion of democracy. Toronto: Between the Lines.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Global Business Initiative on Human Rights. (2010). The global business initiative on human rights welcomes the publication of the draft guiding principles for the implementation of the UN “Protect, Respect, Remedy” Framework. http://www.global-business-initiative.org/srsg/GBI%20Statement%20Dec%2010%202010.pdf.

  14. Green, P., & Ward, T. (2004). State crime: Governments, violence and corruption. London, UK: Pluto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  15. International Organization of Employees (IOE), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC). (2008). Joint Letter to the eighth session of the human rights council on the third report of the special representative of the UN secretary-general on business and human rights. http://www.biac.org/statements/investment/08-05_IOE-ICC-BIAC_letter_on_Human_Rights.pdf.

  16. Jackson, J. H. (2006). Sovereignty, the WTO, and changing fundamentals of international law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  17. Jochnick, C. & Rabaeus, N. (2010). Business and human rights revitalized: A new UN framework meets Texaco in the Amazon. Suffolk Transnational Law Review, Symposium 33:3.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Lipschutz, R. D., with Rowe, J. K. (2005). Globalization, governmentality and global politics: Regulation for the rest of us? London: Routledge.

  19. Mullins, C. W., & Roth, D. L. (2010). The ability of the international criminal court to deter violations of international criminal law: A theoretical assessment. International Criminal Law Review, 10(5), 771–786.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. OECD Watch. (2010). 10 year on: Assessing the contribution of the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises to responsible business conduct, June 2010. http://oecdwatch.org/publications-en/Publication_3550.

  21. OECD. (2011). OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises. OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264115415-en.

  22. Pearce, F., & Tombs, S. (1990). Ideology, hegemony and empiricism: Compliance theories of regulation. British Journal of Criminology, 30(4), 423–443.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Pearce, F. & Tombs, S. (2012). Bhopal: Flowers at the altar of profit and power. http://www.crimetalk.org.uk/.

  24. Rees, C. (2011). Piloting principles for effective company-stakeholder grievance mechanisms: A report of lessons learned. Cambridge: CSR Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Ricco, V. H. (2011). The OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises: Is there hope in the review process. Aportes DPLf, 15, 31–33.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Ross, J. (2000). Controlling state crime (2nd ed.). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Ross, J. (2011). Reinventing controlling state crime and varieties of state crime and its control: What I would have done differently. In D. L. Rothe & C. W. Mullins (Eds.), State crime: Current perspectives. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Rothe, D. L., & Mullins, C. W. (Eds.). (2011). State crime: Current perspectives. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Ruggie, J. G. (2004). Reconstituting the global public domain—Issues, actors, and practices. European Journal of International Relations, 10(4), 449–531.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Ruggie, J. (2008). Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. www.business-humanrights.org/SpecialRepPortal/Home.

  31. Ruggie, J. (2009). Promotion of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. www.business-humanrights.org/SpecialRepPortal/Home.

  32. Ruggie, J. (2011). Guiding principles on business and human rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect, Remedy’ framework. www.business-humanrights.org/SpecialRepPortal/Home.

  33. Shamir, R. (2005). Mind the gap: The commodification of corporate social responsibility. Symbolic Interaction, 28(2), 229–253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Shell. (2010). Sustainability report: Royal Dutch shell PLC sustainability report 2010. Online: http://reports.shell.com/sustainability-report/2011/servicepages/welcome.html.

  35. Simons, P. (2012). International law’s invisible hand and the future of corporate accountability for violations of human rights. Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, 3(1), 5–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Sjoberg, G. (2009). Corporations and human rights. In R. Morgan & B. S. Turner (Eds.), Interpreting human rights: Social science perspectives. London, UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Snider, L. (2011). The conundrum of financial regulation: Origins, controversies, and prospects. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 21, 1–17.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Soederberg, S. (2007). Taming corporations or buttressing market-led development? A critical assessment of the global compact. Globalizations, 4(4), 500–513.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Soederberg, S. (2010). Corporate power and ownership in contemporary capitalism: The politics of resistance and domination. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Stanley, E. (2010). The globalization of transnational justice. In W. J. R. Chambliss, R. Michalowski, & R. C. Kramer (Eds.), State crime in the global age. Cullompton, UK: Willan Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Tombs, S. (2012). State-corporate symbiosis in the production of crime and harm. State Crime, 1(2), 170–195.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Tombs, S., & Whyte, D. (2003a). Unmasking the crime of the powerful: Scrutinizing states and corporations. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Tombs, S., & Whyte, D. (2003b). Introduction: Corporations beyond the Law? Regulation, risk and corporate crime in a globalised era. Risk Management: An International Journal, 5(2), 9–16.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Tombs, S., & Whyte, D. (2009). The state and corporate crime. In R. Coleman, J. Sim, S. Tombs, & D. Whyte (Eds.), State power crime. Los Angeles, London: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  45. United Nations Human Rights Council. (2008). Resolution 8/7: Mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/HRC/resolutions/A_HRC_RES_8_7.pdf.

  46. Woodiwiss, A. (2009). Taking the sociology of human rights seriously. In R. Morgan & B. S. Turner (Eds.), Interpreting human rights: Social science perspectives. London, UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Steven Bittle.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bittle, S., Snider, L. Examining the Ruggie Report: Can Voluntary Guidelines Tame Global Capitalism?. Crit Crim 21, 177–192 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10612-013-9177-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Sexual Harassment
  • United Nations
  • Corporate Responsibility
  • Multinational Corporation