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Mapping the public/private-law divide: a hybrid approach to corporate accountability

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 July 2016

Luke Moffett
QUB, School of Law, Belfast, UK.


Images of oil-covered seabirds or radioactive fallout from nuclear disasters easily evoke concerns over the risks to personal integrity and environmental degradation. The energy-extraction industry, like others, is profit-driven – a competitive enterprise, with little regard for the social impact of its activities beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR) rhetoric. CSR is neither a precautionary measure nor a remedial framework. Outsider stakeholder influence from government is limited and CSR is written on companies’ terms. What emerges is a distortion between companies’ responsibility and accountability for breaches. We propose a hybrid form of accountability that incorporates public international law to ensure the state, as a guardian of society, plays a more definitive role. This will require more binding obligations on states and companies beyond the current soft-law principles, to curtail jurisdictional constraints and forum shopping of large corporations, through an international court of reparations to guarantee effective remedies for victims.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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