Corporate liability workshop and publication

Liability and reporting as regulatory instruments

Institute – Research & Academia – Human rights due diligence

As part of a publication series on the topic of international economic law, Miriam Saage-Maaß, Vice Legal Director of ECCHR, co-edited the volume Die Durchsetzung menschenrechtlicher Sorgfaltspflichten von Unternehmen (The Enforcement of Corporate Human Rights Due Diligence Obligations). The publication is the result of a workshop at Humboldt-Universität designed to give a platform to emergent legal scholars. The contributions in this book examine a number of questions linked to the two models of regulating corporate behaviour – the liability model and the transparency model.

The volume aims to highlight the diversity and complexity of the relevant civil law issues. Furthermore, it aims to show the depth and breadth with which those questions are being addressed by up-and-coming young researchers. The editors believe that the contributions in this volume will give rise to further research on the topic of corporate responsibility for human rights.


Liability and compulsory reporting can be seen as instruments for enforcing corporate responsibility for human rights. The first part of the volume discusses questions of legal liability. It concentrates on the underlying theory as well as the precise application of potential liability for corporate human rights violations and the attribution of liability in global corporate structures and supply chains. The contributions in the second part of the volume deal with the EU's CSR guidelines and their function for the shareholder activities. The third part of the volume examines issues around the conflict of laws.


The contributions for the publication were selected after an open application process directed mainly at young civil law scholars. They were presented on 31 March 2017 at a workshop at the Humboldt University in Berlin. The presentations were commented on and discussed by professors of civil law and were subsequently expanded and adapted for publication.


Die Durchsetzung menschenrechtlicher Sorgfaltspflichten von Unternehmen
Die Durchsetzung menschenrechtlicher Sorgfaltspflichten von Unternehmen


Glossary (1)


Due diligence

Due diligence is a common concept in corporate risk management systems. The idea of corporate human rights due diligence (HRDD) is set out in the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. HRDD obligations refer to a company’s duty to carry out ongoing risk management to determine if its business practices could potentially adversely affect human rights. This includes risks to all those who could be negatively affected by a corporation's actions (e.g. employees, consumers, and persons who could be affected by environmental harm).

Topics (1)


Corporate responsibility

In Pakistan, workers died in a fire at a textile factory because fire safety measures had been neglected. In Peru, people living near a copper mine became ill after pollution leaked into the groundwater. In Bahrain, critics of the regime were arrested and tortured after police used commercial surveillance software to tap their phones and computers. In these three examples, responsibility for human rights violations can be traced back to foreign companies in Germany, Switzerland and the UK, respectively.

Both in economic and legal terms, transnational corporations are the winners of the globalized economy. They are often caught up in a broad range of human rights violations, but the people running the firms are only rarely called before the courts, and even more rarely convicted for their wrongdoing.

However, taking legal action against transnational corporations for violations in their global supply chain is slowly becoming a more viable option. Social movements and NGOs from the Global South are increasingly using legal tools to address human rights violations involving foreign companies by taking action in the countries where these firms are headquartered.

ECCHR aims to use legal mechanisms to help break down unjust economic, social, political and legal power relations around the world. In its Business and Human Rights program, ECCHR assists the political and social struggles of those affected by corporate human rights violations by supporting strategic legal interventions in Europe.


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