The European Union (EU) is a leading global actor in the domain of Business and Human Rights (BHR) given the importance of its market and the advanced regulatory efforts it has put in place in relevant domains. Human rights and sustainable development are core EU values and lay at the basis of its Common Commercial Policy (CCP). While being one of the major and most active voices in the BHR debate of the last decades, the EU does not currently have in place a comprehensive BHR policy framework capable of ensuring coherence between it CSR policies and its trade and investment policies. At the same time, in the EU approach to BHR, a tension persists between a voluntaristic model of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the adoption of hard-law solutions capable of inducing change in business practices and of improving access to effective remedies in Europe for victims of business-related human rights abuses. At present, the announced EU Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct has not been adopted, yet, while there are growing calls on the EU from civil society, Member States and representatives of national Parliaments to adopt binding legislation in several BHR-related policy areas.
As the EU is one of the main supporters of a meaningful implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on BHR, and has taken a critical stance on the possible adoption of an international binding treaty in this domain, it has a strong interest in ensuring the coherence and credibility of its approach to BHR. It is against this background that this research proposal, ‘The EU as a leading global actor in Business and Human Rights: Towards a coherent policy framework’ (BHR_EU) aims at analyzing EU’s growing role in BHR while highlighting areas of policy incoherence and inconsistency and proposing ways to elaborate and devise an effective EU policy framework on BHR. The proposed research adopts an interdisciplinary approach combining several branches of law and political sciences.