Making Corporations Responsible: The Parallel Tracks of the B Corp Movement and the Business and Human Rights Movement
Professor Joanne Bauer
Abstract: The business and human rights (BHR) movement shares several goals with the Benefit Corporation (B Corp) movement: corporations respecting human rights; maintaining a “wide aperture” so that all impacts of a company on people and communities are addressed; and creating rigorous standards of conduct and means of accountability. This paper argues that nonetheless the movements are traveling along parallel tracks and thus missing an opportunity for mutual learning that can improve their effectiveness in making corporations responsible. The BHR movement can look to B Corps for concrete examples of viable companies that use law to embed human rights in business conduct - in other words value human rights intrinsically and not just as a means to higher profits. The B Impact Assessment, the B Corp certification tool, can better ensure that B Corps are in fact respecting human rights by adopting BHR standards. And both movements must give greater consideration to the potential contradiction between unlimited scaling – a key goal of B Corps – and the ability of large corporations to respect human rights. The talk will conclude with a summary of new initiatives to identify alternative corporate models beyond B Corps that are more compatible with the BHR principles of respect for human rights.
Professor Joanne Bauer is a Senior Researcher, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, and Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs (Columbia University)