• Just Business

  • Multinational Corporations and Human Rights
  • By: John Gerard Ruggie
  • Narrated by: James Conlan
  • Length: 7 hrs and 40 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

One of the most vexing human rights issues of our time has been how to protect the rights of individuals and communities worldwide in an age of globalization and multinational business. Indeed, from Indonesian sweatshops to oil-based violence in Nigeria, the challenges of regulating harmful corporate practices in some of the world’s most difficult regions long seemed insurmountable. Human rights groups and businesses were locked in a stalemate, unable to find common ground. In 2005, the United Nations appointed John Gerard Ruggie to the modest task of clarifying the main issues. Six years later, he had accomplished much more than that. Ruggie had developed his now-famous "Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights", which provided a road map for ensuring responsible global corporate practices. The principles were unanimously endorsed by the UN and embraced and implemented by other international bodies, businesses, governments, workers’ organizations, and human rights groups, keying a revolution in corporate social responsibility.

Just Business tells the powerful story of how these landmark "Ruggie Rules" came to exist. Ruggie demonstrates how, to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem, he had to abandon many widespread and long-held understandings about the relationships between businesses, governments, rights, and law, and develop fresh ways of viewing the issues. He also takes us through the journey of assembling the right type of team, of witnessing the severity of the problem firsthand, and of pressing through the many obstacles such a daunting endeavor faced.

Just Business is an illuminating inside look at one of the most important human rights developments of recent times. It is also an invaluable book for anyone wanting to learn how to navigate the tricky processes of global problem-solving and consensus-building and how to tackle big issues with ambition, pragmatism, perseverance, and creativity.

©2013 John Gerard Ruggie (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A true master class in the art of making the impossible possible." (Paul Polman)

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Systemic Approach to Human Rights

Human rights advocates make strong moral claims about rights that are not always so easy to actualize in the real world. So, efforts like those of John Ruggie to not just demand more rights but develop the processes needed to institutionalize them can be refreshing and inspiring. Ruggie is best known as a scholar of international relations but was hand picked by Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan to develop a set of international standards of human rights for multinational businesses.

Ruggie is a constructivist scholar of international relations, and this means he believes that international orders are neither determined by the nature of states nor historical circumstances but are rather constructed by the members of international society. So, Just Business is not just an account of the principles he developed but also their institutionalization. Somehow, Ruggie was tasked with creating a set of principles that would be used by businesses and advocates alike to guide their behavior, and the end result is an astounding success.

The heart of the book lies in the process by which human rights standards for business might be institutionalized. This required surveying workers, community members, advocacy organizations, and businesses from around the world about the human rights challenges they confronted. And it involved developing a set of principles that might win buy-in from each of these constituencies. That meant developing principles that were morally salient, practically useful, and actually achievable. It also meant developing principles that would neither be ignored nor flaunted by various aggrieved parties, and again, Ruggie seems to have pulled a rabbit out of a hat.

The buy-in from business was critical because there are few enforcement mechanisms for international law. As the scholar of international law, Thomas Franck, has sought to demonstrate, the great mystery of international law lies in how and why it is obeyed in spite of its lack of enforcement mechanisms. Part of the reason lies in the way laws create norms, part in the way it coordinates human behavior; part of the reason lies in its reasonability, part in its mechanisms for resolving disputes. In short, law is bot just a mechanism for punishing wrong doers but a set of principles that coordinate our societies abs guide our actions.

Readers can discern all of these processes being mobilized in support of the human rights principles that are developed in this work. It is a clearly written text, with an optimistic tone, and strong systemic reasoning, reminiscent of the Nobel economist Amartya Sen. It is marred only by the barrage of organizational names that must be referenced, lending to it an all too often bureaucratic tone. It is an important work well worth reading that provides an answer to Richard Thompson Ford’s excellent critique of human rights, Universal Rights Down to Earth.

~ Theo Horesh, author of Convergence: The Globalization of Mind