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MNEs and human rights: from responsibilities to rights to governance

Stefan Zagelmeyer (Alliance Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 5 July 2019

Issue publication date: 22 April 2020




This paper aims to explore the links between multinational enterprises (MNEs) and human rights abuses and review the development of international business (IB) and human rights initiatives. Arguing that the focus of the business and human rights debate has shifted from responsibility to rights, and subsequently to governance, it proposes a framework for analysing IB and human rights governance issues in the context of social value creation.


The paper develops a framework for analysing business and human rights governance with respect to the business and human rights field and four business and human rights subfields (labour, consumption, community and environment).


The analytical framework is organised around the relationships between human rights duty-bearers (companies) and human rights-holders (e.g., employees, consumers). It emphasises the role of actors and their interests, the relationships between actors, the objectives of these relationships and the role of governance mechanisms and structures, which, for a particular human rights subfield, define the IB and human rights governance system.


The analytical framework can be used by IB researchers, practitioners and public policymakers to describe, analyse, discuss and address business and human rights issues and challenges. It can be used for comparing and evaluating characteristics and properties of alternative institutional arrangements in the field of business and human rights. Furthermore, it can be used to support the design corporate non-market strategies as well as public policies.



Zagelmeyer, S. (2020), "MNEs and human rights: from responsibilities to rights to governance", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 117-135.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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