This study contributes to the ongoing debate on business and human rights by providing insight into the current state and determinants of corporate human rights disclosures among the top 500 largest business enterprises worldwide. To do so, we use a 13-item human rights disclosure score to evaluate disclosure in two dimensions: scope and quality. Overall, the measured global level of corporate human rights disclosure is low, with business enterprises scoring on average only 3.72 out of 13 points. This indicates a lack of transparency, awareness, and sensitivity regarding corporate responsibility to respect human rights as described in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. However, there are considerable differences across countries. The higher-scoring business enterprises are predominantly based in Australia and Europe. Multivariate analyses reveal that corporate visibility, sector sensitivity in terms of higher litigation risk, and institutional pressure in the form of soft law are positively associated with corporate human rights disclosure levels. However, we find that current forms of national mandatory regulation do not achieve the desired impact on high-quality corporate human rights disclosure, which suggests more targeted and concrete reporting requirements as well as better enforcement may be necessary to improve corporate human rights disclosures.
We appreciate feedback received from Karin Buhmann, Antoine Duval, Elisa Giuliani,
Samentha Goethals, Muhammad Azizul Islam, and Vasanthi Srinivasan, as well as from participants at the 2018 Global Business and Human Rights Research Workshop in Geneva (Switzerland) and the 2019 Business and Human Rights Workshop in The Hague (Netherlands). We also thank Anna R. Rudolf for excellent research support. All remaining errors are our own.
Data Availability StatementSupplementary data to this article can be found online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpa.2022.102512.
- human rights
- multinational corporations
- UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
- human rights performance and disclosure
- human rights due diligence