Ethics & International Affairs Volume 27.3 (Fall 2013): "Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights" by John Gerard Ruggie

Sep 18, 2013

Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights, John Gerard Ruggie (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013), 225 pp., $24.95 cloth.

Review by Ralph Steinhardt

Any analysis of the role that international human rights law plays—or ought to play—in the decisions of multinational corporations must confront a range of skepticisms. Among the most persistent is that every branch of international law is unenforced and unenforceable, and that, even when it works, international human rights law constrains the conduct of governments, not businesses. In the skeptic’s view, if companies have any legal responsibility, it is the obligation to maximize the return on shareholders’ investment, and doing well by that measure may have little to do with doing good. On those rare occasions when companies do announce an intention to abide by human rights law, skeptics see it as a public relations move and not as a genuine response to some legal or ethical obligation.

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