In this essay, we examine empirically whether the revised draft of the business and human rights (BHR) treaty is a normative advance on the existing jungle of global instruments. Since the 1970s, almost one hundred global corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards have been adopted, half of them addressing human rights. See Figure 1 from our global CSR database, below. What is novel about the current treaty-drafting process within the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is that it aims to develop a comprehensive standard that would hold states legally accountable for regulating business. The question is whether this is possible. Drawing on our work on the “commitment curve,” we begin theoretically and point out why one should hold modest expectations about the process and treat strong text with skepticism as much as celebration. Using an empirical methodology, we then compare the HRC's Revised Draft Legally Binding Instrument (Revised Draft LBI) with existing standards, and find that while the draft contains a healthy dose of incremental pragmatism, its significant advances require a degree of circumspection about its strengths and prospects.
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