Beyond Voluntarism: Human rights and the developing international legal obligations of companies

Interest is growing in the responsibility of private companies to respect human rights. What was once a marginal issue is now a major concern of companies, as well as governments, intergovernmental and non- governmental organisations, investors and consumers. In July 2000 the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, launched the Global Compact, a UN- sponsored appeal which called on companies to commit themselves to respect nine core principles in relation to human rights, labour and the environment. Hundreds of companies, including many of the world’s largest, have joined this initiative.