Document Type

Article

Publication Title

AJIL Unbound

Publication Date

6-2017

Abstract

A transnational legal order (TLO) is emerging regarding the role of businesses in respecting human rights. This legal order includes multistakeholder initiatives, international organization recommendations and guidelines, NGO certifications, and other voluntary instruments. Many of the norms within this TLO are nonbinding and therefore lack mandatory compliance; what they may possess is persuasive power, particularly when the norms are developed, endorsed, and managed by reputable organizations. It is that reputational, or legitimacy, advantage that matters for encouraging industry associations to comply with the nonbinding norms associated with these organizations. Industry associations and other business actors will gravitate more towards legitimacy enhancing organizations when their own legitimacy is at stake. They pivot towards public organizations such as the United Nations or private NGO initiatives like the Rainforest Alliance, seeking to associate themselves publicly with these organizations that enjoy more perceived legitimacy. These business relationships with legitimizing bodies can take the form of partnerships, certifications, or other arrangements where an industry association adopts and incorporates nonbinding norms when it otherwise might not. In this essay, I discuss three transnational legal processes that encourage industry associations, their members, and other business actors to abide by nonbinding transnational legal norms concerning business and human rights.

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