This article accounts for recent developments in corporate social responsibility, international trade and investment law, international human rights law, development aid, and the laws of home states reaching extraterritorially in order to advance a regulatory perspective on commerce and human rights. While these developments are remarkable, the analysis documents the prevalence of softer strategies and a corresponding scarcity of coercive legalization strategies. The question, then, is how to reason about these recent developments and their genuine potential for human rights protection. The article proposes two elements – a root-cause orientation and the interaction of policy channels – as indispensable for a regulatory and systemic perspective on business and human rights. To make corporate activities compliant with human rights, the emerging regulatory regime cannot afford to waste any source of leverage. In a less state-centric global order, this is a search for a multichannel, rights-holder-centered, transnational regulatory perspective that highlights alignment, interaction, and complementarity among international policy channels where strength can be achieved by creating a “rope” from weaker strands.
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