In the last several decades a diverse movement has emerged that seeks to extend the accountability for human rights beyond governments and states, to businesses. Though the view that business has human rights responsibilities has attracted a great deal of positive attention, this view continues to face many reservations and unresolved questions.
Business ethicists have responded in a twofold manner. First, they have tried to formulate the general terms or frameworks within which the discussion might best proceed. Second, they have sought to answer several questions that these different frameworks pose: A. What are human rights and how justify one’s defence of them?; B. Who is responsible for human rights? What justifies their extension to business?; and C. What are the general features of business’s human rights responsibilities? Are they mandatory or voluntary? How are the specific human rights responsibilities of business to be determined?
Within the limited space of this article, this article seeks to critically examine where the discussion of these issues presently stands and what has been the contribution of business ethicists.