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Corporations have become increasingly global--their structures, activities and influence extending well beyond national boundaries. While international trade and investment law have developed in parallel with this globalizing dynamic, international law addressing the social impacts and role of corporations has failed to keep pace. Even if or when such developments do take place, it is clear that state-based regulation will not on its own be sufficient to address the governance and accountability challenges of today, which stretch across state borders and engage a broad array of interested stakeholders beyond business and government alone.

Various approaches have been developed to address these governance gaps.  Some appear to be stop-gap alternatives to regulation.  Others appear to be more permanent features of a globalizing and democratising environment.  They include codes of conduct, certification schemes, multi-stakeholder initiatives, grievance mechanisms, stakeholder panels, the use of social media, and other instruments that help to shape the actions of private entities in situations where formal regulatory systems are weak, absent or just inadequate to the task. Our research describes and assesses these evolving systems.

The CSR Initiative’s research in the area of governance and accountability focuses on:

* The State Role in Business and Human Rights: obligations, tools and policy options for states to protect against abuse of human rights by corporations.
* Access to Remedy:
(a) Judicial: the extent and nature of barriers to accessing justice for corporate abuses of human rights and means for addressing them;
(b) Non-judicial mechanisms for addressing grievances or disputes between companies and those they impact in society, and wider corporate approaches to resolving disputes with these groups.
* Stakeholder Panels: the use by companies of ad hoc or standing panels of independent external stakeholders as a form of governance and/or accountability mechanism in relation to their social performance.
* Web 2.0 and Accountability: the actual and potential role of web 2.0 applications in enabling interactive accountability processes between companies and their stakeholders.

Business and Human Rights: Supporting the Mandate of the UN SRSG

The Governance and Accountability Program of the CSR Initiative was proud to provide research and advisory support to the work of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative (SRSG) on Business and Human Rights, CSRI Faculty Chair John G. Ruggie, on a range of issues under his mandate.  In particular, most project work undertaken in the areas of The State Role in Business and Human Rights and Access to Remedy is in direct support of the SRSG’s mandate.  CSRI also supported the SRSG’s work to operationalize the concept of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.  

On June 16, 2011, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” framework led by Professor Ruggie.

As part of the Ruggie mandate, the CSR Initiative worked to develop and then pilot a set of criteria for effective non-judicial grievance mechanisms. The final report, "Piloting Principles for Effective Company-Stakeholder Grievance Mechanisms: A Report of Lessons Learned," may be accessed here. For any questions, please contact the study's lead author, Caroline Rees, at

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