Book Brief: Regulating Corporate Human Rights Violations

Regulating Corporate Human Rights Violations
Surya Deva
Routledge (January 2012)
ISBN 9780415668217
296 pages

Surya Deva’s new book on the humanization of business sets out to address three crucial and timely questions: Why companies and corporations have human rights responsibilities, what the scope of these responsibilities is, and how businesses, particularly multinational corporations, should be held accountable for human rights violations. The author opens with a study of the 1984 toxic gas leak in Bhopal to demonstrate a classic case of inhuman business, one in which  a multinational corporation not only violated human rights but was able to skirt accountability for their transgressions.

Deva offers an analytical framework with which to evaluate existing regulatory initiatives to hold businesses accountable for human rights violations on the basis of five variables: the source of the initiative, its content, the targeting approach, the levels of operation, and the nature of its compliance strategy. According to this framework, an initiative is effective if it succeeds at both preventing and redressing rights violations. Deva outlines the argument for both the existence of human rights obligations of companies and what the explicit standards should be for multinational corporations operating in other countries. To address the question of accountability, Deva proposes an integrated theory of regulation that calls for integration between issues of both human rights and business, between the fundamental challenges of “humanizing business,” and among all levels of regulation.

This book makes a compelling theoretical and practical case for the incorporation of human rights priorities into business, and provides a clear outline for action.

– By Judith Fitzpatrick and Kathy Wang