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Corporate accountability in the Samarco chemical sludge disaster

Journal article
Authors Karen da Costa
Published in Disaster Prevention and Management
Volume 26
Issue 5
Pages 540-552
ISSN 0965-3562
Publication year 2017
Published at School of Global Studies
Pages 540-552
Language en
Keywords Brazil, Disasters, Extractive industries, Multinational corporations, Business and human rights, multinational-enterprises, oecd guidelines, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, Public, Environmental & Occupational, Health, Business & Economics
Subject categories International law, Globalization Studies


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore avenues of corporate accountability in disasters, using the Samarco chemical sludge disaster, which took place in 2015 in Brazil, as case study. Design/methodology/approach - The paper considers possible ways of enhancing corporate accountability in disasters, focusing on one particular international mechanism on multinational enterprises (MNEs), which addresses both human rights and environmental issues. The research is based on the location and assessment of a variety of written sources (i.e. normative instruments, academic literature, publications by practitioners, civil society organizations, and the media). The paper makes suggestions on the potential of using existent international accountability mechanisms in similar disasters. Findings - The paper identifies key measures taken by national authorities to address the disaster. It also considers how the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines for MNEs could be used to pursue corporate accountability. Research limitations/implications - This is a desk-based research, chiefly conducted on documental analysis rather than fieldwork. Practical implications - The paper might provide useful insights for organizations and communities facing similar challenges linked to multinational corporate activities that adversely affect human rights and the environment. Originality/value - The study brings to attention normative standards relatively unknown to the disaster community, which may help raise interest on them, and lead to their potential use in future disaster situations. Furthermore, to date the Samarco chemical sludge has received scant attention from the academic literature.

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