Voluntary or Mandatory: That is (Not) the Question

Wettstein, Florian; Waddock, Sandra
December 2005
Zeitschrift fuer Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensethik;2005, Vol. 6 Issue 3, p304
Academic Journal
Human rights have traditionally been considered a domain of governments. The ongoing economic globalization, however, has rendered this state-centered view increasingly inadequate. In this contribution we will argue that also the powerful transnational corporations must bear more and more direct responsibility for the impact of their actions on human rights. Florian Wettstein and Sandra Waddock will first clarify the conceptual connection between existing approaches to corporate citizenship (CC) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the newly emerging "business and human rights" debate. Partly in contradiction to the "traditional" view on CSR/CC as a voluntary affair for business, we will then plea for mandatory human rights standards for corporations. However, human rights obligations are not always clear-cut and evident; especially so-called positive rights often create contingent and often highly ambiguous duties for many different actors. Therefore, we will argue CSR/CC can make a valuable contribution especially regarding the clarification of such imperfect obligations. Accordingly, the relation between voluntary and mandatory approaches must not be seen as a mutually exclusive one, but rather as inherently complementary.


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