Addressing the 'drivers' and 'root causes' of environmental and human rights harm within corporate law: a global approach

Turner, Stephen (2015) Addressing the 'drivers' and 'root causes' of environmental and human rights harm within corporate law: a global approach. In: SLSA Conference, 2 April 2015, Warwick University.

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Abstract - Dr Stephen Turner, Lincoln Law School
Addressing the ‘drivers’ and ‘root causes’ of environmental and human rights harm within corporate law – a global approach
This paper considers ways that the law could be reformed in order that corporations become legally predisposed to benign outcomes in terms of their impacts upon the environment and peoples’ associated human rights.
It maps out the global legal architecture that has developed in jurisdictions around the world over the last two centuries, which has facilitated the unique success of the ‘corporation’ as a medium for business enterprise. However, it focuses on the deficits within corporate law which arguably predispose corporations to potentially become agents of environmental degradation and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals and communities in terms of their human rights. It especially considers why the law has developed in the way that it has on a global scale and uses those lessons to posit the manner in which it could be reformed. It therefore specifically addresses those dysfunctional aspects of the law, which can be said to amount to ‘drivers’ or ‘root causes’ of negative environmental and human rights impacts.
As such this paper is forward looking and takes a problem-solving approach to the existing global legal architecture. Nevertheless it takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches that have been developed to address the negative manifestations of corporate activity. Therefore, it considers the concept of ‘corporate social responsibility’, codes of conduct, sustainability reporting guidelines and initiatives such as those following the reports of Professor John Ruggie – The UN’s Special Representative of the Secretary General. Needless to say, lessons learned from these approaches also play an important role in informing the debate related to future reform.
In considering the pathways that need to be created to develop a reformed legal framework of environmental and human rights responsibilities for corporations, this paper summarises new research that proposes concrete steps that could be taken in this regard. It therefore considers recent proposals which include the reform of directors’ duties and the creation of an ‘International Corporation Registration Body’ which would require compliance with prescribed international standards. Finally it comments on the steps that would be required to achieve such major changes in the law.
Indicative Bibliography
Dine, J. (2012) Jurisdictional Arbitrage by Multinational Companies: A National Law Solution? J. Hum. Rts. & Env. 3(1), 44.
Muchlinski, P. T. (2007) Multinational Enterprises and the Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sjäfell, B. (2012) Regulating Companies as if the World Matters – Reflections from the ongoing Sustainable Companies Project. Wake Forest. L. Rev., 47, 113.
Sjäfell, B. & Richardson, B. J. (eds) (2015) Company Law and Sustainability: Legal Barriers and Opportunities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Steinhardt, R. G. (2005) Corporate Responsibility and the International Law of Human Rights: The New Lex Mercatoria. In P. Alston (ed), Non-State Actors and Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Turner, S. J. (2009) A Substantive Environmental Right – An examination of the legal obligations of decision-makers towards the environment. Leiden: Wolters Kluwer.
Turner S. J. (2014) A Global Environmental Right, Abingdon: Routledge.

Keywords:Corporate law, Human rights law, International environmental law, Global environmental governance
Subjects:M Law > M221 Business and Commercial Law
M Law > M130 Public International Law
Divisions:College of Social Science > Lincoln Law School
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ID Code:27552
Deposited On:22 May 2017 09:44

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