Corporate Responsibility for Fundamental Labour Standards and Rights: A Field Study on Labour Conditions of Sugarcane Workers on Grupo Pellas’ Plantation in Western Nicaragua

Start date: 3 November, 2013 End date: 19 May, 2014 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A24559 Countries: Nicaragua Institutions: Copenhagen Business School (CBS), Denmark Grant recipient: Anita Aufrecht Total grant: 15,000 DKK



Increasingly, adverse business impacts on societies and environments have been addressed by the international community. To define a transnational umbrella model for business responsibilities, the United Nations introduced the framework named Protect, Respect and Remedy in 2008, which was complemented by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011. Its concepts impose certain obligations to governments and corporations and point to several mechanisms, to which these actors can be held accountable on the local and global level. The frameworks implementation phase was determined for a period of three years that ends simultaneously with the thesis' release. The signiflcance of these transnational guidelines has been assessed by means of a practical case.

In Western Nicaragua, economic activities have been related to a health epidemic of chronic kidney disease among sugarcane labourers. Due to the latest research findings on possible causes, the local research partner organisation La Isla Foundation conducted a pilot study on the human rights situation, in which a small confidential group of former and current sugarcane workers was selected as the study population. The goal was to collect evidence on labour conditions and give recommendations that mitigate adverse impacts. To best contribute to the research teams knowledge, the thesis' study focus was laid on corporate responsibility for the most universally recognised labour standards and rights. The local environment was observed and informants consulted in order to best understand collected data. A comparative case study was additionally conducted to evaluate regional trends. Severe rights violations by employing businesses, a lack of enforcement for corporate responsibilities, and the provision of adequate access to remedies through governance mechanisms were identified.

The conclusions drawn from all study findings are attributed to the theoretical frameworks' concepts to discuss its effectiveness and to give advancing recommendations. The thesis' overall objective is to incentivise policy changes in favour of vulnerable groups around the globe that are adversely affected by business activities. While the field study approach may limit interpretations to other cases or the chosen theory, the thesis points out the necessity to establish international instruments that directly sanction corporations for non-compliance with fundamental standards - regardless of their national origin.