Corporate Actors in Zones of Conflict: Responsible Engagement

Led by Lene Bomann-Larsen
Jan 2001 - Dec 2004

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Corporations operating in developing countries and conflict zones face major ethical challenges. This project aims to clarify how the demands of corporate social responsibility may be met within such settings, with a special focus on the social and political dimensions of side-effect harm. Ethical concepts from the just war tradition – in particular the principle of double-effect – constitute the theoretical backbone of the project. During 2002, the project resulted in the booklet ‘Corporate Actors in Zones of Conflict: Responsible Engagement’, published jointly by the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO) and PRIO. Ongoing collaboration with the United Nations University (Tokyo) will ultimately result in the publication of a book written by an international team of experts: Double Effect in World Business: Dealing with Unintended Consequences of Corporate Activity (United Nations University Press, forthcoming 2004).

The project focuses on the difficulties corporations face as regards harmful side-effects of legitimate business operations. How should the companies respond? By adapting ethical concepts from the just war tradition - in particular the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) - the project aims at clarifying and delimiting the scope of corporate social responsibility, and increase understanding of responsibility for side-effects. This includes corporate participation in wrong-doing conducted by others, be it governments, security forces or corporate partners and suppliers (i.e. moral complicity).

The project focuses on the difficulties corporations face as regards harmful side-effects of legitimate business operations. How should the companies respond? By adapting ethical concepts from the just war tradition - in particular the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) - the project aims at clarifying and delimiting the scope of corporate social responsibility, and increase understanding of responsibility for side-effects. This includes corporate participation in wrong-doing conducted by others, be it governments, security forces or corporate partners and suppliers (i.e. moral complicity).

The project is a collaboration with the United Nations University (UNU), which relates the DDE to the UN Global Compact. The main output will be a UNU Press Publication (to be published in 2004) on dealing with unintended consequences of corporate activity. The project is funded by the UNU and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Another output built on the same ethical framework a 'check-list' on responsible engagement in conflict zones for the Norwegian Confederation of Business and Industry (NHO), available in both Norwegian (Sept. 2002) and English (Feb. 2003)

Research Groups

Publications

Edited Volume

Bomann-Larsen, Lene (ed.) (2004) Responsibility in World Business: Managing Harmful Side-Effects of Corporate Activity. Tokyo: UN University Press.

Conference Paper

Bomann-Larsen, Lene (2003) Addressing Complicity: Legitimate Business Objectives vs. Harmful Side-Effects, presented at The Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) 16th Annual Meeting, New York City, June 2003.
Bomann-Larsen, Lene 2002 Corporate Social Responsibility in the Norwegian Petroleum Sector, February.

Report - Other

Bomann-Larsen, Lene (2002) Bedrifter i konfliktområder: ansvarlig engasjement [Business in Conflict Areas: Responsible Engagement], Report by Næringslivets hovedorganisasjon & PRIO. Oslo: Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon & PRIO.

Report - External Series

Syse, Henrik;Bomann-Larsen, Lene; & Alm, Kristian (2001) Verdikommisjonens sluttrapport [The Final Report of the Norwegian Commission for Human Values]: .