During the past few decades, with limited success, the United Nations Secretariat, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN human rights treaty committees, activists, non-governmental agencies, and foundations have encouraged national governments to protect and promote human rights. However, it has become clear that national governments no longer have the resources to fund the realization of economic rights, such as the right to housing, the right to education, the right to work, the right to social security, the right to a clean and safe environment, and the right to health. As a result, the UN human rights system and its supporters are now expecting transnational corporations to "respect" human rights, which, depending on one's perspective, can mean anything from obeying national laws protecting the civil and political rights of citizens to the limitless funding of a broad range of ambiguous economic, social, and cultural rights. This section covers the UN's growing "business and human rights" agenda, which works in the context of a complex adaptive matrix of human rights governance networks.
As international, non-governmental, and civil society organizations attempt to hold businesses accountable for respecting and fulfilling human rights, to monitor corporate compliance, international standards have been developed. International standards, such as the Global Reporting Index (“GRI”) and ISO 26000, are now used to measure corporate adherence to international human rights, labor, and environmental standards in their product development, business operations, and supply chains. Human rights activists are now pressuring national governments to move from voluntary to mandatory corporate reporting on non-financial matters. This focus area examines current trends in corporate reporting standards and their increasing adoption by governments and businesses alike in the face of mounting pressure from international human rights governance networks.