In the distant past, global commercial enterprises usually acted in concert with the powers that be at home. It was required by their charter. So, British trading interests developed into the British raj. But these days, commercial entities operate globally on their own and for their own purposes. They are disconnected to a large degree. So that folks may complain, for example, about their using “tax inversion”, one cannot complain that — absent money laundering or transfer pricing concerns — moving profits across borders abroad to lower taxes is a violation of law even if it may not be in the national interests of the home country.
This applies to how commercial interests treat people as well as how they account fro their income. At least in some cases, transnational corporations appear to have acted in ways that are … shall we say … dreadful from a human rights perspective. I refer to engaging in murder, torture, property expropriation, this sort of thing.
Should they be more accountable at home? It is an interesting question. And so far, the answer from the US Supreme Court is “no”. But one senses that this debate is not over. Le Monde Diplomatique offers a thoughtful overview.