Enhancing the Responsibility of Transnational Corporations: The Case for Decoupling the Environmental Issues

Ciprian Radavoi, Yongmin Bian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The lack of accountability of transnational corporations (TNCs) for any harmful behaviour in the fields of environment, labour and human rights is a concern for the global community. Despite various attempts, neither the United Nations nor the home or host countries of most TNCs have so far provided any effective, binding solutions. This article argues that an important reason for the lack of advancement in introducing greater accountability is because issues such as workers' rights, the environment and human rights are often discussed together. A new approach, one that is solely focused on protecting the environment, is desirable especially with the rise of new capital exporters. In 2013, China detached the issue of the environment from those of workers' or human rights, in its attempt to tackle overseas corporate wrongdoing. Its environmental guidelines are worth emulating, but it lags behind in areas such as human rights. Analysing the position of the environment among the other fields involved in the debate, we first identify several theoretical reasons for detaching the former from an international law perspective. We then provide a comparative functional analysis of four extraterritorial corporate social responsibility Bills – those in the United States (2000), Australia (2000), the United Kingdom (2002) and Canada (2009) – all of which were rejected by their national parliaments. This lends additional support to the thesis that including the environment with other targeted fields stands in the way of home countries improving the environmental behaviour of their overseas corporations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-182
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Law Review
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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