n South African Law Journal - Crossing the divide between the business of the corporation and the imperatives of human rights - the impact of Section 7 of the Companies Act 71 of 2008

Volume 128, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0258-2503
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2177



This article considers the role of human rights in the corporate environment. It will be argued that although traditionally there has been a divide between the goals of the company, perceived as the pursuance of profit, and the imposition of human rights obligations upon companies, perceived of as an impediment to 'profit maximisation,' it is now essential that this divide be bridged. This imperative is found both in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and within the Companies Act 71 of 2008. The article considers how s 7 of the Companies Act, which sets out the purpose of the Act, seeks to give effect to this constitutional mandate whilst protecting the more traditional functions of a company. Having established that companies do have responsibilities in a constitutional dispensation, the article proceeds to consider how these responsibilities can be applied effectively in the management of a company. The nature of the company as an entity is explored to provide a basis for considering how to define the content and the extent of human rights obligations in a company law context. International developments in this regard are also briefly discussed. The doctrine of veil piercing, and innovative interpretations of director's duties are then considered as mechanisms to inculcate these obligations within company structures.

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