Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate responsibility describes the sense of responsibility a corporation shows in all areas of business that impact the general public, its employees, the environment, and the economic environment. CR stands for a corporate philosophy that values transparency, and ethical behaviour, and also respects the shareholders by placing them in a central position where business activities are concerned. CR incorporates Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Corporate Governance and Corporate Citizenship. The concept of CR is continually gaining in importance for German companies. Corporations who adopt CR have a competitive advantage. By documenting their conduct in the open market using the Global Reporting Initiative, these corporations are following the guidelines in accordance with CR reports. More info can be found on Wikipedia.

Binding guidelines only on state level

Enterprises are not defined as a subject of international law thus giving them immunity against human rights violations. Because of this, it is only the state in which the company is headquartered or in which it conducts business that can hold the company accountable for its behaviour. Due to commercial globalisation the competition between states is growing. In order to continue to benefit from these multicorporations, judges and governments often do not apply the rules and regulations or only in favour of the corporations. The resulting impunity is an insurmountable hurdle in the battle for human rights.

Prevention of binding international guidelines

A further problem resulting from globalisation is the regulation of internationally active corporations, the so-called transnational corporations. Currently no binding guidelines exist, also due to the influence of transnational corporations, which could be enforced in cases of human rights violations.
The only possibility to bring corporations to justice on human rights violations in another country is the US law, the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCT). Non-US citizens can use this act from the 18th century in cases of a corporation’s misconduct against human rights outside of the American territory. All human rights treaties that have been ratified by the USA can be used as a basis in such cases. However, it is incredibly difficult to make use of this act due to the fact that an American lawyer must be appointed.

It is also not possible to bring a transnational corporation headquartered in Switzerland to justice. The efforts to change this situation are continually being documented on this website.

Voluntary behavioural code

In response to public pressure and in order to continue to avoid binding guidelines, multinational corporations are relying on so-called voluntary obligations (e.g. companys principles, Global Compact, codes for particular sectors). However, these codes merely describe intentions without the possibility to monitor and hold accountable. The OECD-guidelines are somewhat more binding.