Business and human rights

Topic Selected: Business

General Article icon Type: General Article

Introduction

In the wake of major abuses in recent decades, civil society has increasingly called for companies to be held to human rights standards. Union Carbide was widely denounced for the 1984 Bhopal chemical gas leak that killed thousands in India. In the 1990s, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) campaigned against child labour and other abuses in the supply chains of prominent apparel and footwear companies. They also denounced alleged abuses by mining, oil and gas companies, including complicity in violence by government security forces and pollution that damaged the health of people in nearby communities.
In the past companies tended to approach social issues through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. However, many CSR initiatives were undertaken selectively, based on what the company voluntarily chose to address. A human rights approach requires companies to respect all human rights; they do not have the option of picking and choosing t

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