|Publication:||Journal of World Business|
|Title:||Human Rights and the Multinational Enterprise|
|Type:||Journal Special Issue|
|Editors:||Günter K. Stahl (Vienna University of Economics and Business), Elisa Giuliani (University of Pisa), Grazia D. Santangelo (University of Catania), Florian Wettstein (University of St. Gallen)|
|Deadline:||September 30, 2016|
|Description:||The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent treaties define human rights as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being. More recently, the 2015 United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals and the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights contribute to the promotion of the human rights agenda in the business sector. The UN initiatives add to a number of other initiatives, e.g., by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) to actively promote various ‘soft-law’ interventions designed to reduce corporate wrongdoing.
These initiatives have promoted rising awareness regarding the human rights conduct of Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) and other business actors, which global (social) media and global activist groups contribute to amplify. The rising awareness and expectations regarding corporate human rights conduct poses new and important challenges to MNEs operating in multiple environments with varying legitimacy requirements (Kostova and Zaheer, 1999), and dealing with human rights is rapidly becoming the new frontier of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Still, multinationals adopt very diverse approaches and strategies to cope with human rights issues. Unilever has recently issued its first Human Rights Report inspired by the idea that “business can only flourish in societies in which human rights are respected, upheld and advanced” (Paul Polman, Unilever CEO). Likewise, Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke, in his keynote speech at the 2014 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, in Geneva, declared that “human rights is about doing, is about how we behave – every day, everywhere”. Such initiatives seem to suggest that MNEs progressively speak the human rights language and human rights issues are becoming central to MNEs’ CSR agenda. At the same time, infringements on human rights by large MNEs remain prevalent. This has been the case, among many others, of the Apple-Foxconn labor rights scandal denounced in the New York Times in 2012, and the infringement of the rights of indigenous communities by the Brazilian mining multinational, Vale, in connection to the Belo Horizonte Dam project.
These contrasting conducts are still poorly understood, and call for a deeper investigation into how MNEs deal with human rights when designing their strategies, operations and organization in multiple institutional, cultural and legal environments, as well as on the drivers of MNEs’ human right conduct and on the effects of such a conduct on corporate competitiveness.
While there is a lively and established scholarly debate on business and human rights, research in international management and international business has not picked up systematically on the subject as of yet. Rather, it has focused more narrowly on related topics such as corporate corruption, or more broadly on CSR strategies and MNEs’ environmental conduct (Cuervo-Cazurra, 2006; Rabbiosi and Santangelo 2014; Van Tulder and Kolk, 2001; Kolk, 2010; Zheng, Luo and Maksimov, 2015). As a result, to date our knowledge on MNEs’ human rights conduct is mainly derived from other fields, such as international law, political science and international relations (for a review see Giuliani and Macchi, 2014), and from business ethics (Doh, Husted, Matten and Santoro, 2010; Arnold 2010; Wettstein 2012). However, we still lack a full understanding of MNEs’ human rights conduct in connection with traditional international management and international business issues. For example, questions about the role played by individuals in key organizational positions (e.g. expatriates and inpatriates) in determining MNEs’ human right conduct, as well as questions about how headquarters (HQ)-subsidiary relationships influence the decision-making process around human rights issues, are largely under-investigated. So are questions connected to MNEs’ human rights conduct in relation to the liability of foreignness and country of origin disadvantage. At the same time, there is very little theory development and empirical evidence on the efficacy of MNEs’ CSR strategies for substantially enhancing the promotion of human rights both at home and in the host countries. For example, although there is a growing body of research examining how MNEs respond to the dual pressures of global integration and local responsiveness with regard to CSR and ethics (e.g., Husted & Allen, 2006; Muller, 2006; Miska, Witt, & Stahl, forthcoming), little is known about the conditions promoting a transnational approach to human rights that recognizes “both universal moral limits and the ability of communities to set moral standards of their own” (Donaldson & Dunfee, 1999: 50). Our knowledge on the influence of the home, host and meta-environment on MNEs’ human rights conduct remains scant. More theoretical and empirical analyses are needed to investigate whether MNEs respecting and promoting human rights outperform competitors that are less caring. Finally, we still need to learn about lobbying strategies and business-government interactions of MNEs in connection to human rights as well as on the effect of current and planned transnational initiatives to regulate human right conduct across borders.
This special issue intends to address these gaps by serving three objectives. First, the special issue aims to build an international management and international business theoretical perspective on the topic by promoting cross-disciplinary research on MNEs and human rights, and by taking stock of extant knowledge. Second, the special issue aims to encourage research proposing conceptual frameworks and theoretical perspectives useful to understand drivers and effects of MNEs’ human rights conduct, as well as to develop effective managerial implications and suggestions for policy-making. A third aim of the special issue is to start drafting a research agenda on MNEs and human rights that international management and international business scholars can further develop in the forthcoming years.
The special issue solicits both theoretical and empirical contributions, which draw on different research streams and disciplines, including international management, international business, business ethics, international law, political science and business and human rights. Methodologically, the issue welcomes qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method research approaches. It is expected that empirical studies explicitly contribute to set a theoretical agenda. In particular, we welcome submissions addressing, among others, questions related to the factors that influence MNE human rights conduct, and on the effects of MNE human rights conducts, as elaborated below:
Drivers of MNE human rights conduct
Effects of MNEs human rights conduct
Authors should submit their manuscripts no later than submission deadline online via the Journal of World Business EES submission system at http://ees.elsevier.com/jwb. To ensure that all manuscripts are correctly identified for consideration for this Special Issue, it is important that authors select ‘SI: MNEs and Human rights’ when they reach the “Article Type” step in the submission process. Manuscripts should be prepared in accordance with the Journal of World Business Guide for Authors available on the journal web page. All submitted manuscripts will be subject to the Journal of World Business’s blind review process.
Submissions open: September 1, 2016
Questions about the Special Issue may be directed to the guest editors or supervising editor:
Arnold, D. (2010). Transnational Corporations and the Duty to Respect Basic Human Rights. Business Ethics Quarterly 20(3), 371-399.
Cuervo-Cazurra, A. (2006). Who Cares about Corruption? Journal of International Business Studies, 37(6): 807-822
Doh, J., Husted, B. W., Matten, D., & Santoro, M. (2010). Ahoy there! Toward greater congruence and synergy between international business and business ethics theory and research. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(3): 481-502.
Donaldson, T., & Dunfee, T. W. (1999). When ethics travel: The promises and peril of global business ethics. California Management Review, 41(4): 45-63.
Muller, A. (2006). Global versus local CSR strategies. European Management Journal, 24(2): 189–198.
Giuliani, E., Macchi, C. (2014). Multinational Corporations’ Economic and Human Rights Impacts on Developing Countries: A Review and Research Agenda. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 38(2): 479-517.
Husted, B. W., & Allen, D. B. (2006). Corporate social responsibility in the multinational enterprise: strategic and institutional approaches. Journal of International Business Studies, 37(6): 838–849.
Kolk, A. (2010). Trajectories of sustainability reporting by MNCs. Journal of World Business, 45 (4): 367-374.
Kostova, T., Zaheer, S. (1999). Organizational legitimacy under conditions of complexity: the case of the multinational enterprise. Academy of Management Review. 24(1): 64-81.
Miska, C., Witt, M.A., & Stahl, G.K. (forthcoming). CSR strategies of Chinese multinational enterprises: Drivers of global CSR integration and local CSR responsiveness. Business Ethics Quarterly.
Rabbiosi, L., Santangelo, G. D. (2014) When in Rome, do as the Romans do: Subsidiary Autonomy as a Response to Corruption Distance. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2014, 1: 13763.
Van Tulder R., Kolk A., (2001) Multinationality and Corporate Ethics: Codes of Conduct in the Sporting Goods Industry, Journal of International Business Studies, 32 (2): 267–283.
Wettstein, F. (2012). CSR and the debate on business and human rights: Bridging the great divide. Business Ethics Quarterly, 22(4): 739-770.
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