Regulating for corporate human rights abuses: The emergence of corporate reporting on the ILO's human rights standards within the global garment manufacturing and retail industry

Muhammad Azizul Islam (Corresponding Author), Ken McPhail (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

56 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite the ubiquitous nature of the discourse on human rights there is currently little research on the emergence of disclosure by multinational corporations on their human rights obligations or the regulatory dynamic that may lie behind this trend. In an attempt to begin to explore the extent to which, if any, the language of human rights has entered the discourse of corporate accountability, this paper investigates the adoption of the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) human rights standards by major multinational garment retail companies that source products from developing countries, as disclosed through their reporting media. The paper has three objectives. Firstly, to empirically explore the extent to which a group of multinational garment retailers invoke the language of human rights when disclosing their corporate responsibilities. The paper reviews corporate reporting media including social responsibility codes of conduct, annual reports and stand-alone social responsibility reports released by 18 major global clothing and retail companies during a period from 1990 to 2007. We find that the number of companies adopting and disclosing on the ILO's workplace human rights standards has significantly increased since 1998 - the year in which the ILO's standards were endorsed and accepted by the global community (ILO, 1998). Secondly, drawing on a combination of Responsive Regulation theory and neo-institutional theory, we tentatively seek to understand the regulatory space that may have influenced these large corporations to adopt the language of human rights obligations. In particular, we study the role that International Governmental Organisation's (IGO) such as ILO may have played in these disclosures. Finally, we provide some critical reflections on the power and potential within the corporate adoption of the language of human rights. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)790-810
Number of pages21
JournalCritical Perspectives On Accounting
Volume22
Issue number8
Early online date27 Jul 2011
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011

Fingerprint

ILO
manufacturing
human rights
abuse
industry
social responsibility
language
obligation
regulation theory
responsibility
Corporate reporting
Retail industry
Manufacturing industries
Abuse
Human rights
annual report
discourse
multinational corporation
clothing
corporation

Keywords

  • Human rights
  • Institutional theory
  • International Governmental Organisation
  • International Labour Organisation
  • Multinational companies
  • Responsive regulation

Cite this

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abstract = "Despite the ubiquitous nature of the discourse on human rights there is currently little research on the emergence of disclosure by multinational corporations on their human rights obligations or the regulatory dynamic that may lie behind this trend. In an attempt to begin to explore the extent to which, if any, the language of human rights has entered the discourse of corporate accountability, this paper investigates the adoption of the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) human rights standards by major multinational garment retail companies that source products from developing countries, as disclosed through their reporting media. The paper has three objectives. Firstly, to empirically explore the extent to which a group of multinational garment retailers invoke the language of human rights when disclosing their corporate responsibilities. The paper reviews corporate reporting media including social responsibility codes of conduct, annual reports and stand-alone social responsibility reports released by 18 major global clothing and retail companies during a period from 1990 to 2007. We find that the number of companies adopting and disclosing on the ILO's workplace human rights standards has significantly increased since 1998 - the year in which the ILO's standards were endorsed and accepted by the global community (ILO, 1998). Secondly, drawing on a combination of Responsive Regulation theory and neo-institutional theory, we tentatively seek to understand the regulatory space that may have influenced these large corporations to adopt the language of human rights obligations. In particular, we study the role that International Governmental Organisation's (IGO) such as ILO may have played in these disclosures. Finally, we provide some critical reflections on the power and potential within the corporate adoption of the language of human rights. {\circledC} 2011 Elsevier Ltd.",
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