Human rights should be our business
Keywordshuman rights, human dignity, international law, business entities, business conduct, pragmatic approach
Motivation: Until today, businesses have very often not seen the need to focus on the protection of human rights when conducting business activities. Recent cases involving BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Volkswagen show that even the most well-known corporations violate human rights. After the analysis of several pertinent legal texts, I will present my arguments as to why businesses should protect human rights even though it is difficult to present a universal basis for these rights.
Aim: The business world is often critical of its obligation to protect human rights and its core value which is human dignity. There are however difficulties in presenting arguments that can frame how we should understand the nature of human dignity. This article aims to present these difficulties, which can be understood not only as a challenge but also as an opportunity to rethink the reasons why businesses should adjust their conduct in a way that does not violate human rights.
Results: The analysis of the legal and philosophical literature as well as international texts and court rulings shows that it is difficult to present a clear answer regarding the meaning of the notion of human dignity as the basis for the protection of human rights. Such a difficulty can be perceived however as an opportunity to apply a pragmatic approach and to create an open dialogue about the scope of human rights protection of which businesses should be a part. It should not only be in the interest of states to protect human rights, who are involved in creating treaties and in their implementation, but also in the interest of business entities. Human rights are our business and they should also be the business of businesses, taking responsibility for the human rights violations caused by their operations. These violations can be prevented by applying a pragmatic approach, thanks to communication with those willing to present critical views, and by resting the judgements of businesses on their ongoing critical assessment of their activities, taking under considerations not only profit margins but also the other human beings impacted by their operations.
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