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The United Nations human rights body in Geneva adopted the first set of international human rights norms for transnational corporations. University of Minnesota law professor David Weissbrodt had a hand in writing the standards, which are aimed at fostering greater corporate social responsibility.
U professor helps draft new human rights standards
By University News Service
From eNews, September 4, 2003
On Aug. 13, the United Nations human rights body in Geneva adopted the first set of international human rights norms for transnational corporations. University of Minnesota law professor David Weissbrodt had a hand in writing the standards, which are aimed at fostering greater corporate social responsibility. "Given all the news that's been coming across about Enron, Qualcomm, etc., this is an attempt by the U.N. to provide guidance to companies about what human rights expectations they should fulfill," says Weissbrodt, a member and former chairman of the U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. "This is said to be the most comprehensive set of standards applicable to businesses." The standards, "U.N. Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with regard to Human Rights," deal with the right of workers, the quality of goods, and anti-corruption, among other things. It pulls together principles from a wide range of labor, environmental, consumer protection, and anti-corruption treaties, including those by the International Labor Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. While drafting the document, Weissbrodt and the 25 other committee members sought input from many interested parties, such as governments, nongovernmental organizations, transnational corporations, and unions. "There is a large community of people out there with concerns about corporate social responsibility," he says. The U.N. standards are useful not only for companies looking to police their own conduct but also for companies in assessing their suppliers or other organizations they may want to do business with, explains Weissbrodt. For consumers, the standards can serve as a checklist for finding socially responsible companies to invest in. To read a copy of the new U.N. standards, see www.umn.edu/humanrts/links/norms-Aug2003.html.