In Lieu of a Sovereignty Shield, Multinational Corporations Should Be Responsible for the Harm They Cause

Journal of Business Ethics 124 (4):609-621 (2014)
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Some progress has been made in recent decades to articulate corporate social responsibility (CSR) and, more recently, to associate CSR with international enforcement of human rights. This progress continues to be hampered, however, by the ability of a multinational corporation (MNC) that violates human rights not only to shift liability from itself to a nation-state but even to win compensation from that nation-state for loss of profits due to restrictions on its business activities. In the process, the nation-state’s sovereignty is diminishing; and, in effect, though still attributed to nation-states, it is being transferred to the MNC. The main aim of this article is (1) to draw on normative considerations to claim that this MNC proto-sovereignty should be modified and (2) to contend that this can eventually be accomplished by adding to corporate adoption of CSR guidelines a regimen of global human rights enforcement. I base this contention on expectations about the internationalization of corporate criminal law and the globalization of civil society in general and of NGOs in particular. I consider various jurisdictions but I focus on US jurisprudence.
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