Corporations are increasingly important actors in international law. But vital questions underlying this development have long gone unanswered: How and why do corporations commit to international law?

This article constructs a general account of business interaction with international legal obligation and suggests that a gateway to demystifying this persistent puzzle lies in corporate opinio juris.

Corporate opinio juris describes a company's subscription to a rule of international law, even though the company is not technically bound by that rule. This subscription functions as a kind of pledge that, once made, has sway over the company and its peers and symbiotically enhances the authority of international law. Corporate opinio juris provides a common rubric to analyze the subfields of international law where these corporate pledges have been documented, serving as a paradigm to better understand how and why companies adhere to international law.

The article then unpacks how various structures within business law and management theory help to predict the formation of corporate commitments to international law, arguing that corporate opinio juris holds potentially sweeping implications for international law generally.

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2021

Publication Information

53 New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 433-500 (2021)