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Shareholder Engagement in the Embedded Business Corporation: Investment Activism, Human Rights and TWAIL Discourse

Tue 14 February 2012

On 14 February 2012, UCL Centre for Ethics and Law invited Aaron Dhir, Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, Canada, to present on how the global expansion of the corporation brings with it new tensions such as human rights related impacts. By examining certain sections of Canadian corporate law, Dhir looks at the impacts of the shareholder proposal on corporations and locally affected communities of third world countries. Professor Dhir stressed that, as socially responsible corporations navigate this new terrain, they have an ethical duty to respect the interests of locally affected communities in the global business world and empower the communities in third world countries. To empower communities, companies and investors should consult with these local communities, put them in a position to help and be involved in the process, and most importantly, obtain “free prior and informed consent of locally affected communities” before moving forward.  Dhir concluded that this new governance approach not only promotes a constructive mutual dialogue between stakeholders and corporations, but also reflects a “broader movement towards a new reflexive governance approach”. Dhir expressed his hope that this approach will encourage corporations to focus on norm generation and the enhancement of “internal self-regulatory capacities”. Described as “advocacy beyond orders”, Dhir’s presentation spurred audience discussion centred on whether using corporate law mechanisms to further human rights impact awareness will create a trickledown effect, encouraging multinational corporations to raise their CSR standards.

About the Speaker

Aaron Dhir is an Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University. He has held visiting appointments at Harvard University’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government and the University of Oxford’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies.  He currently holds the appointment of Scholar in Residence with the Law Commission of Ontario.  

About the department

The UCL Centre for Ethics & Law was established in 2009 to reflect the growing need for enhanced collaboration between academics, practicing lawyers and industry, given the fast changing and increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the global issues lying at the intersection between ethics and regulatory compliance. The work of the Centre is resolutely multi-disciplinary and practice-oriented, focusing on a number of current themes including the professional ethics of in-house and external legal counsel, ethics of risk, anti-corruption, global business and human rights, and distributive justice.

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