Responsible Business Conduct and State Laws: Addressing Human Rights Conflicts


The business and human rights framework is based on pillars in which states should act to protect against the human rights impacts of business enterprises and the business enterprises should act in ways that do not lead to human rights impacts. Yet there is a gap in this framework in situations where a business enterprise may be willing to act but faces challenges in doing so due to the laws and practices of a state in which it operates. This international framework nevertheless places an expectation on businesses that they should still respect international human rights law as far as possible in these circumstances. No methods are offered for how this can be done in any coherent manner. This makes it very difficult for business enterprises, regulators and civil society to determine the type of compliance required. In this article, we explore this gap in the international framework and, based on empirical research, offer ways in which it can be closed. We propose a typology to assist in understanding the different conflicts between business practices and state laws that may occur, and recommend methods as to how to deal with these conflicts.