The concept of ‘adverse human rights impacts’ introduced by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is frequently used in institutional, activist and scholarly discourse. However, the term is under explored and usually equated with ‘human rights violation’, occluding its transformative potential. This article demonstrates its expansiveness and rationale: ‘impacts’ cover any business act which removes or reduces an individual’s enjoyment of human rights. The formula is designed to capture business acts that are not paradigmatically understood as human rights violations but that nonetheless cause harmful outcomes. This can encompass, inter alia, acts which reduce market access to essential goods, harm caused by business-related tax abuse, and business contributions to climate change. The extra-legal concept provides an authoritative argumentative framework through which social understandings of business-related harm can evolve and can underlie a transformative shift in the business-society relationship.