Many global businesses are run with consideration for the well-being of the people whose lives they touch. But others—whether through incompetence or by design— seriously harm the communities around them, their workers, and even the governments under which they work. Much of the problem lies with companies themselves—even those that think of themselves as ethical. Too many still deal with human rights problems on the fly, without forethought and often in a de facto regulatory vacuum that they lobby vigorously to maintain. In many parts of the world, company human rights practices are shaped by self-created policies, voluntary initiatives, and unenforceable “commitments”—not by binding laws and regulations. History’s long and growing catalogue of corporate human rights disasters shows how badly companies can go astray without proper regulation. Yet many companies fight to keep themselves free of oversight, as though it were an existential threat.
By Chris Albin-Lackey