Do no Harm and do More Good too: Connecting the SDGs with Business and Human Rights and Political CSR Theory

Karin Buhmann, Jonas Jonsson, Mette Fisker

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Purpose: This paper aims to explain how companies can benefit from their human rights due diligence process to identify opportunities for sustainable development goals (SDGs) activities in an operationalisation of political corporate social responsibility (PCSR).
Design/methodology/approach: Combining PCSR, SDGs and business and human rights (BHR) literature, the paper develops an extension of the risk-based due diligence process described by the BHR literature, helping companies identify societal needs to which they may contribute in accordance with PCSR through engaging in the SDGs.
Findings: Companies can benefit from resources they already invest in due diligence to identify their adverse human rights impacts, by drawing on the insights gained on broader needs, including human rights, to which they may contribute. This can help them develop appropriate interventions to address local needs and advance their moral legitimacy through assisting in SDG-relevant fulfilment of human rights.
Research limitations/implications: The paper provides theory-based guidance on how companies can assess their capacity for contributing societal value through human rights-oriented SDG interventions. Future empirical research may explore how companies apply the extended due diligence process to assess needs and determine relevant actions.
Practical implications: The paper offers a principle-based analytical approach for integrating the “do no harm” imperative of BHR theory with PCSR’s call for business assistance in the delivery of public goods and the SDGs’ call for business action to “do good’.
Social implications: This paper enables enhanced business implementation of the SDGs in line with PCSR and human rights theory, especially the emergent field of business and human rights.
Originality/value: This study gives theory-based guidance for companies for SDG contributions based on innovative combination of literatures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCorporate Governance: The international journal of business in society
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)389-403
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Published online: 5. November 2018


  • Human rights
  • Leverage
  • Sustainable development goals (SDGs)
  • Political CSR
  • Moral legitimacy
  • Risk-based due diligence

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