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Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights

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"A true master class in the art of making the impossible possible." —Paul Polman
One of the most vexing human rights issues of our time has been how to protect the rights of individuals and communities worldwide in an age of globalization and multinational business. Indeed, from Indonesian sweatshops to oil-based violence in Nigeria, the challenges of regulating harmful corporate practices in some of the world’s most difficult regions long seemed insurmountable. Human rights groups and businesses were locked in a...

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Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights (Norton Global Ethics Series)

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Overview

"A true master class in the art of making the impossible possible." —Paul Polman
One of the most vexing human rights issues of our time has been how to protect the rights of individuals and communities worldwide in an age of globalization and multinational business. Indeed, from Indonesian sweatshops to oil-based violence in Nigeria, the challenges of regulating harmful corporate practices in some of the world’s most difficult regions long seemed insurmountable. Human rights groups and businesses were locked in a stalemate, unable to find common ground. In 2005, the United Nations appointed John Gerard Ruggie to the modest task of clarifying the main issues. Six years later, he had accomplished much more than that. Ruggie had developed his now-famous "Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights," which provided a road map for ensuring responsible global corporate practices. The principles were unanimously endorsed by the UN and embraced and implemented by other international bodies, businesses, governments, workers’ organizations, and human rights groups, keying a revolution in corporate social responsibility.
Just Business tells the powerful story of how these landmark “Ruggie Rules” came to exist. Ruggie demonstrates how, to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem, he had to abandon many widespread and long-held understandings about the relationships between businesses, governments, rights, and law, and develop fresh ways of viewing the issues. He also takes us through the journey of assembling the right type of team, of witnessing the severity of the problem firsthand, and of pressing through the many obstacles such a daunting endeavor faced.Just Business is an illuminating inside look at one of the most important human rights developments of recent times. It is also an invaluable book for anyone wanting to learn how to navigate the tricky processes of global problem-solving and consensus-building and how to tackle big issues with ambition, pragmatism, perseverance, and creativity.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 2005, Kennedy School of Government professor Ruggie was called upon by Kofi Annan for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to “identif... international human rights standards” that “proscribe corporate conduct... and clarif the respective roles of states and business in safeguarding those rights.” Aside from contemplating atrocities such as “bonded labor in factories,” the exploitation of child workers, and security guards who rape and kill, Ruggie faced enormous questions such as: “how can human rights norms most effectively be embedded in state and corporate practice to change business conduct”; and “how can this be fostered and achieved in the global sphere where multinational corporations operate but which lacks a central regulator?” Ruggie chronicles his six-year journey from a near-hopeless situation to creating the “Protect, Respect, and Remedy Framework” and a supporting set of guiding principles (endorsed by states, businesses, and civil society), which lay out the steps states and businesses must implement and includes an agreed-upon mandate that “states must protect, companies must respect, and those who are harmed must have redress.” Ruggie analyzes key violations, including those by Nike, Shell, and Yahoo, before looking ahead and discussing next steps. Part of the Amnesty International Global Ethics series, this book provides a shining example to leaders that apparently insurmountable global issues are not lost causes. (Mar.)
Paul Polman
“A must-read for anyone wishing to understand how to navigate the choppy and turbulent waters of the UN system and succeed. Just Business is the embodiment of the man who wrote it—sharp, intuitive, honest, pragmatic, witty, and humble—passionate in his resolve and commitment to human rights.”
Ann-Marie Slaughter
“John Ruggie is a great scholar, leader, and humanitarian. Just Business recounts the story of one of the most effective human rights initiatives undertaken in recent memory in a way that makes it essential reading for activists, scholars, students, policy experts, and business leaders alike.”
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart
“By developing the ‘UN Guiding Principles,’ John Ruggie brought thoughtful and principled pragmatism to a topic of decades-long controversy. Just Business is a great guide for anyone taking on the task of reconciling interested and apparently irreconcilable parties and, indeed, for further progress in this field of business and human rights.”
Kofi Annan
“Business and human rights challenges became permanently implanted on the global policy agenda twenty years ago. However, there was no universally accepted framework to address or reduce corporate-related human rights harm. John Ruggie took up the challenge to fill that gap and achieved a great deal in a short space of time. It is all too easy when looking at seemingly intractable problems to believe that nothing can be done or that only governments or political leaders can act. Just Business shows us the opposite and underlines how all segments of society must play their part to achieve results that benefit all.”
Sir - Mark Moody-Stuart
“By developing the ‘UN Guiding Principles,’ John Ruggie brought thoughtful and principled pragmatism to a topic of decades-long controversy. Just Business is a great guide for anyone taking on the task of reconciling interested and apparently irreconcilable parties and, indeed, for further progress in this field of business and human rights.”
Kirkus Reviews
A discussion of the creation of a new global standard for business and human rights. The rapid growth of multinational corporations in the 1990s created "permissive environments for wrongful acts by companies without adequate sanctions or reparations," writes Ruggie (Human Rights and International Affairs/Kennedy School of Government), who, in 2005, was named special assistant to then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to establish guidelines for corporations in relation to human rights. Multinationals grew rapidly in scope and power during that period, outsourcing production to low-cost, often remote areas of the world, yet they were not subject to global regulation. Ruggie discusses familiar cases of business-related human rights abuses--working conditions in Indonesian plants making Nike products, Shell's conflict with local communities in Nigeria, etc.--and recounts his six-year stint developing the widely hailed U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which detail how businesses and governments can help ensure that corporations respect human rights in their own operations and through their business relationships. When he started his work, fewer than 100 of the world's 80,000 multinational corporations had any policies in place regarding the risk of their involvement in human rights controversies. Now there is "an unprecedented international alignment" behind the belief that states must protect human rights, companies must respect them, and those who are harmed must have redress. Unlike mandatory or voluntary responses to such issues, the new global standard makes respecting rights an integral part of business and relies on "a smart mix of reinforcing policy measures" to encourage long-term change. Ruggie believes his heterodox approach will lead to more effective human rights protection and may also prove useful in addressing other global governance gaps, such as climate change. A valuable resource for business leaders and policymakers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393062885
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/25/2013
  • Series: Amnesty International Global Ethics Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 973,829
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

John Ruggie is the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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