Apple’s use of child labor; Goldcorp’s operations in Guatemala; the complicity of Dow Chemical/Union Carbide in the Bhopal chemical disaster; Shell’s involvement in the executions of activists protesting the company’s environmental and development policies in Nigeria. These are just a few examples of alleged corporate malfeasance that have emerged on the international stage.
The purpose of this seminar is to introduce students to the debate concerning the accountability of transnational corporations that are complicit in rights-violating activities. At the international level, there has been a transition from focusing solely on rights-violations committed by governments to a detailed examination of transnational corporate conduct. Indeed, it has now become trite to say that particular corporations have directly or indirectly participated in violations of human rights.
The seminar will begin with an introduction to corporate theory. Students will then explore some of the key issues in the debate. For example, whether transnational corporations can properly be included under the international law of state responsibility; mechanisms for self-regulation (e.g. voluntary corporate codes of conduct); the utility of the U.S. Alien Tort Statute and recent Canadian litigation; the advantages and disadvantages of U.N. initiatives (e.g. the work of the former U.N. Special Representative on Business and Human Rights); and the relevance of domestic corporate and securities law mechanisms (e.g. shareholder proposals and social disclosure).
The course materials are drawn from a number of sources, including documentary film; academic journals; articles in the popular and business press; reports by human rights monitoring groups; petitions filed before courts and administrative agencies; U.N. materials; and the governing documents for voluntary corporate initiatives.
1. Depending on circumstances, this course may be offered remotely. If so, the course will use Zoom online video conferencing and synchronous (real-time) instruction. Class attendance at the designated time will be mandatory. Students will require a reliable internet connection, a microphone, and a web camera. Students will be expected to participate with video enabled for the duration of each session unless doing so would result in a significant hardship.
2. Any non-Osgoode students enrolled in the class must adhere to Osgoode’s academic rules and policies, including the course drop deadline.
3. The information above is provided for course registration purposes only and is subject to change at any time.