Inter-business Society and Business and Human Rights

Ms. Ayako Inokuchi

In political science, the role of business actors as non-state actors has increasingly been paid attention. Norm diffusion study is no exception. Finemmore & Sikkink (1998) developed norm life cycle theory, which looks at the process that one idea launched by norm entrepreneurs get supporters and finally become an established and internationally shared norm. This theory has been criticized and added other concepts from other perspectives by various researchers. In this process, business is also treated as main players. However, it analyzes norm shared by States, with logic of inter-states society as prerequisite.
“Business and Human Rights (BHR)” is a newly born concept, which symbolized by the endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) in 2011, by the UN Human Rights Council. Clearly noting that business actors have responsibility to respect human rights recognized in fundamental international human rights treaties, this BHR placed business actors as subjects of human rights norm promotion. Although UNGP is a norm endorsed by inter-states society and internalized by each state, it must be internalized by inter-business society to be implemented well, and it has been directly influencing to inter-business society as well.
To analyze the question “How does idea of BHR spread to business?”, this paper sets its starting point on the analysis of structure and logic of inter-business society. It imports insights from literature on “politics and business”, business management, and sociology. It also adds historical contexts to its analysis. This analysis shows the neoliberal aspects of inter-business society do not only contribute to promote BHR but also distort its concept in the practice level. Practically, this paper tries to contribute BHR lawyers to understand the nature of inter-business society and to translate human rights languages into business languages.