Universiteit Leiden

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Labour Law and Social Security

Database of Business Ethics

For many years, human rights have been considered a playing field in which states were the most important actors. It is they who in multilateral relations, such as the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), have written international conventions and who commit to the implementation of and compliance to these documents.

The past 15 years another development may be observed. Under the influence of the globalisation of the economy, internationally operating companies have started to feel increasingly responsible for the enforcement of human rights. Encouraged by their stockholders and by societal debate and pressure, these companies aim to, as well as are obliged to, account for their behaviour. Under the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), companies have become more active in formulating policy in which they commit to respecting human rights. An increasing number of companies accept the Principles of the UN Committee on Human Rights: the State is responsible “to protect human rights,” the companies “to respect human rights” and together they share the responsibility “to remedy” in case of violation of the obligations of the  international conventions.

A great number of companies have documented their human rights policies in “Codes of Conduct,” in which they describe the Principles to which the company is prepared to commit globally. Often, yet not always, these Codes of Conduct contain a reference to international conventions related to human rights.

On the question whether this CSR policy of international companies is successful, is a matter of wide debate and publication.

To enable an informed discussion on this topic, compiling data is necessary. International conventions are easily located on the websites of international organisations and in national legislature. Locating Codes of Conduct of companies, however, is more complex and time-consuming.

This database aims to be of aid in this discussion by collecting as many of these Codes of Conduct as possible, making these available to the public and investigating these Codes of Conduct on the theme of human rights.

That theme is broad and comprehensive. To start, we have focused on those human rights connected with the companies: the human rights that pertain to labour. These rights have been formulated by the ILO, who commenced with the protection of labour rights 100 years ago and continues to the present with its work.

On this website, besides the texts of the Codes of Conduct, you will find a classification of the collected Codes of Conduct in terms of mention of child labour, forced labour, the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. These are the Fundamental Principles and Rights at work as decided by the ILO in 1998.

It is our intention to further develop the database as to categorise the other types of human rights. 

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