Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Philosophy (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

James W. Nickel

Second Committee Member

Mark Rowlands

Third Committee Member

Bradford Cokelet

Fourth Committee Member

Thomas Donaldson


This dissertation addresses two issues at the cutting edge of human rights theory and practice: the human rights obligations of corporations and the emergence of environmental human rights. The appropriate range of corporate human rights obligations is explored through the ongoing debate between political and moral conceptions of human rights. It is argued that political conceptions completely underdetermine the appropriate range of such obligations, while moral conceptions will prescribe at least an obligation to respect human rights, but underdetermine the issue beyond this basic requirement. It is proposed that a hybrid conception of human rights will provide better guidance on this issue. Next, consideration is given to a debate about whether it is better to develop and adjudicate environmental rights at the national (constitutional) or international level. It is argued that there are not good reasons for confining the development and adjudication of environments rights to the national level, and that there are unique benefits which can only be realized by developing and adjudicating international environmental human rights. Finally, there is an analysis of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. It is argued that most, but not quite all, of the elements of the United Nations norm are justified on the basis of respect for rights. It is also argued that this norm generates positive, as well as negative, obligations. However, some of these obligations can only be determined in light of particular political, institutional, and social contexts.


human rights; business and human rights; corporate social responsibility; environmental human rights; human rights courts