Public regulators and CSR: The ‘Social Licence to Operate’ in recent United Nations instruments on Business and Human Rights and the juridification of CSR

Karin Buhmann

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The social licence to operate (SLO) concept is little developed in the academic literature so far. Influential deployment of the term was made by the United National (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the UN Protect Respect and Remedy Framework, which apply SLO as a argument for responsible business conduct, connecting to social expectations and bridging to public regulation. This UN guidance has significantly influenced how public regulators seek to influence business conduct beyond Human Rights to broader Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) concerns. Drawing on examples of such public regulatory governance, this article explores and explains developments towards a juridification of CSR entailing efforts by public regulators to reach beyond jurisdictional and territorial limitations of conventional public law to address adverse effects of transnational economic activity. Through analysis of an expansion of law into the normative framing of what constitutes responsible business conduct we demonstrate a process of juridification entailing a legal framing of social expectations of companies, a proliferation of law into the field of business ethics, and an increased regulation by law of social actors or processes.
TidsskriftJournal of Business Ethics
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)699–714
StatusUdgivet - 2016


  • CSR transparency and reporting
  • EU and CSR
  • juridification of CSR
  • OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
  • social licence to operate
  • politicization of business
  • UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • UN 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework

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