Sexual Harassment, Sexual Violence and CSR: Radical Feminist Theory and a Human Rights Perspective

Abstract

This paper extends Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) scholarship to focus on issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence. Despite a significant body of work on gender and CSR from a variety of feminist perspectives, long-standing evidence of sexual harassment and sexual violence in business, particularly in global value chains, and the rise of the #MeToo movement, there has been little scholarship focused specifically on these issues in the context of CSR. Our conceptual paper addresses this gap in the literature through two key contributions. First, we extend the theoretical base of CSR scholarship by drawing upon and explicating radical feminist theory, a resource that has been underutilized in the field to date. This theoretical perspective is well placed to offer insights around the issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and to explain the centrality of these concerns to the gender equality agenda in business and in CSR. Second, building upon insights from radical feminism, and from research on CSR and human rights, we explicate a business and human rights approach to sexual harassment, sexual violence and CSR. We point to ways in which this approach might be more effective in addressing these issues than previously adopted strategies and suggest directions for future research arising from our analysis.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    While we are highlighting the ILO Convention here with regard to the concept of a continuum of sexual violence and harassment, this does not imply that the Convention itself takes a radical feminist perspective with regard to remedies and redress regarding sexual harassment. We note, for example, the overlap with some emerging literature regarding framing sexual harassment as an occupational health and safety issue (e.g. Smith et al. 2019), but that—from a radical feminist perspective—this creates a serious issue of obscuring the gendered nature of harm and, indeed, the way in which the harm springs from gendered inequality in and of itself (MacKinnon 1979).

  2. 2.

    It is also acknowledged that ‘71 per cent of the estimated number of people in modern slavery are women’ (UN 2019, p. 4).

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Grosser, K., Tyler, M. Sexual Harassment, Sexual Violence and CSR: Radical Feminist Theory and a Human Rights Perspective. J Bus Ethics (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-020-04724-w

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Keywords

  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual violence
  • CSR
  • Feminist theory
  • Human rights