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Dr Manuel Jose Oyson
CQUniversity Australia

There is a resurgence of public protests and civil disobedience by socio-political movements that are fighting for a reversal or mitigation of climate change. This comes in the heels of a warning by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the world community must mitigate and adapt to climate change to avoid catastrophic global climate impacts. Socio-political movements such as Extinction Rebellion and People’s Climate Movement have characterised the threats of climate change as potentially leading to human extinction and the collapse of civilisation.

Some of the actions of these socio-political movements, such as activists supergluing themselves to Shell Oil headquarters or, in the case of Greenpeace, occupying oil rights, have led to a clash with the legal rights of companies. The orthodox view is that companies owe a legal duty only towards their shareholders and not to non-shareholder stakeholders. This view has typically led to an injunction being granted by the courts when company rights have been infringed. From a legal standpoint, public protests and civil disobedience by socio-political movements can be viewed as a demonstration of the stakeholder theory of the corporation. However, the legal underpinnings of the stakeholder theory and the “rights” of social activists as they clash with those of company rights have not been adequately examined.

Following a socio-legal and normative approach in analysing the legal underpinnings of the stakeholder theory, this paper examines the philosophical theories of utilitarianism, social justice, social contract, legitimacy, and positivism. The paper argues that if certain rights can emerge a priori to their explicit creation by positive law, then the aggressive assertion of stakeholder rights can portend legal reform.

The author is a Law Lecturer at CQUniversity Australia. He is a Lawyer in Queensland and a Barrister and Solicitor in New Zealand. He completed his PhD, Master of Laws (with Honours), and PG Certificate in Academic Practice at the University of Auckland. He has published in the: Journal of International Entrepreneurship, Journal of International Globalisation and Small Business, The Law Teacher, and Small Enterprise Research Journal, among others, and presented papers at more than 15 international conferences in the UK, U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Serbia, Singapore, and Australia.

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