The UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (the UNGPs) have become the ‘normalised platform’ for businesses to demonstrate their understanding of human rights responsibilities. Yet little empirical research exists to determine how initiatives like the UNGPs are implemented in everyday corporate practices. To provide illumination, this paper draws on two multinational case studies – a bank and an oil and gas company. Employing a qualitatively constructive, critical approach, which understands instruments of regulation like the UNGPs as socially constructed practices – simultaneously constructed by those who use them, and in turn, constructing a reality of human rights within a particular setting – the paper explores how the UNGPs are used by employees of both companies and their external human rights advisors, and the implications this might have on corporate accountability for human rights.
Marisa is a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews, having recently completed her visiting fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. Her PhD thesis focuses on critically analysing companies’ implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the impact of transposing human rights into different corporate contexts. It also looks at the role of human rights intermediaries, those who help institutionalise human rights norms.