International Laws: Guidelines to resolve disputes

A number of international and intergovernmental guidelines have been developed in recent years in an attempt to regulate how brands do business and the impact their business practices have on local communities. Although these guidelines are voluntary, there are several mechanisms in place that address violations of international rules and regulations.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The Guiding Principles are evidence that the United Nations (UN) has acknowledged that corporate activities may have a negative impact on human rights. Professor John Ruggie developed the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework in 2008, which describes the duties and responsibilities of nations and businesses in addressing corporate-related human rights abuses. The Guiding Principles, adopted in 2011,implores countries and companies alike to implement the UN framework..

The “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework is based on three principles: 1) The state has a duty to protect its citizens from human rights abuses by enacting the appropriate policies and regulations; 2) corporations are responsible for ensuring respect for human rights by acting with due diligence (carrying out investigations of potential human rights abuses) to ensure the rights of others and to address potential negative impacts; and 3) by creating opportunities for workers to improve their lot.

The CCC believes that this framework is a step in the right direction because it draws companies into the UN’s human rights equation . Although these guidelines remain voluntary, the principles provide a clear framework for corporations to act responsibly toward the resolving of human rights abuses in their supply chains, especially when the state fails. A common criticism of The Guiding Principles is that companies will simply change their tactics by reframing their policies instead of proactively improving working conditions. In that regard, audits have created a perfect paper reality, which means that the CCC must continue to monitor company activities and to ensure that the garment workers lives are actually improved.

UN Global Compact

The Global Compact is a UN initiative that promotes responsible corporate behaviour through the adaptation of socially responsible policies. It is not a governing instrument as it does not actually monitor, enforce or measure corporate behaviour. It merely serves as a forum that relies on public accountability, transparency and the enlightened self-interest of companies, labour organisations and civil society to introduce and share proactive measures that will ensure ethical behaviour.

OECD Guidelines

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are comprised of government recommendations for multinationals by establishing voluntary principles and standards that foster responsible behaviour consistent with applicable laws. These Guidelines aim to ensure that corporate activities abide by existing national laws with the aim of improving cooperation between the companies and the communities in which they operate, to, in turn, further improve the climate for foreign investment and to promote sustainable development. The Guidelines provide NGOs with the right to file complaints with the National Contact Point (NCP) whenever a company violates the Guidelines. However, the CCC has noted that there has never been a positive outcome of any cases filed  with the NCP.