Associate Fellow, International Law

Trends in the regulation of business responsibility for human rights have growing salience for diplomats, policy-makers, business strategists and social activists.

Photo: Ed Kashi/National Geographic/Getty Images. Photo: Ed Kashi/National Geographic/Getty Images.
  • Trends in the regulation of business responsibility for human rights have growing salience for diplomats, policy-makers, business strategists and social activists.

  • At the intergovernmental level, new divisions have emerged over how best to pursue remedies for business-related rights claims. This fragmentation could hamper rights protection, but that there is debate is both unsurprising and healthy in an emerging field with historical legacies.

  • At national level, divergence among states in degrees of implementation of the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is evident. A significant majority of states are currently passive.

  • Among businesses, similar implementation divergence is likely. Most new regulation will comprise voluntary industry schemes rather than international legal instruments.

  • The topic of business and human rights covers an increasingly broad agenda. That social advocates may struggle to select priority issues strategically will have implications for how much resonance the agenda can obtain. 

  • Forthcoming Chatham House research will look in greater depth at the trajectory of future international regulation in the field of business and human rights, including the potential emergence of ‘soft norms’ and the integration of human rights considerations into trade and investment instruments.