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McLaughlin talk looks at the human rights responsibilities of companies

McLaughlin talk looks at the human rights responsibilities of companies

Should the human rights responsibilities of companies arise, in part, from their “leverage” – their ability to influence others’ actions through their relationships? Special Representative John Ruggie rejected this proposition in the United Nations Framework for business and human rights.

During the next instalment of the McLaughlin College Lunchtime Talks, taking place today at noon, Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Stepan Wood (left) will argue that leverage is a source of responsibility where there is a morally significant connection between the company and a rights-holder or rights-violator, the company is able to make a contribution to ameliorate the situation. Wood will argue that it can do so at modest cost and the threat to human rights is substantial.

In such circumstances, posits Wood, companies have a responsibility to exercise leverage even though they did nothing to contribute to the situation. He argues that such responsibility is qualified, not categorical; graduated, not binary; context-specific; practicable; consistent with the social role of business; and not merely a negative responsibility to avoid harm but a positive responsibility to do good.

Wood teaches climate change law, environmental law and property law. He is editor-in-chief of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal and acting director of the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS). His research focuses on corporate social responsibility, sustainability, globalization, transnational private governance, voluntary standards, climate change and environmental law.

Wood is currently directing an interdisciplinary research project on the dynamics of interaction among transnational business governance initiatives in fields as diverse as accounting standards and sustainable forestry certification. He is co-author with Stephen Clarkson of A Perilous Imbalance: The Globalization of Canadian Law and Governance (2010, shortlisted for the Donald Smiley award for best book on Canadian politics), co-editor of Climate Law and Developing Countries (2009) and co-editor of Environmental Law for Sustainability (2006). He is founder and co-chair of the Willms & Shier Environmental Law Moot for Canadian law schools.

Wood’s talk is hosted by the McLaughlin College Master’s Office. It will take place today from noon to 1:30pm in the McLaughlin Senior Common Room, 140 McLaughlin College. All talks are free and open to the public.

Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.