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2015/2016  KAN-CBLCV2015U  Business & Human Rights: Governance, Leadership and Management

English Title
Business & Human Rights: Governance, Leadership and Management

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Min. participants 15
Max. participants 50
Study board
Study Board for BSc og MSc in Business, Language and Culture, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Karin Buhmann - Department of Intercultural Communication and Management (ICM)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Business Law
  • Globalization and international business
Last updated on 17-02-2015
Learning objectives
To achieve the grade 12, students should meet the following learning objectives with no or only minor mistakes or errors: At the end of the course, students should be able to:

- Describe and critically discuss human rights and the role and responsibilities of business with regards to human rights
- Explain and discuss key concepts concerning the field of business and human rights
- Relate the field of business and human rights to the fields of CSR and sustainability
- Reflect upon and apply the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights to empirical cases and evidence
- Reflect upon and discuss the opportunities and challenges that the contemporary human rights agenda poses to management and leadership in MNCs and SMEs and deliver well argued recommendations
Course prerequisites
Academic qualifications and limitations:
The most important qualification you need is intellectual curiosity to understand how the emergence of the discourse on Business & Human Rights has matured into solid expectations of business, and what this means for business organizations (whether large or small) as well as civil society and public organizations which affect a business’ social license to operate. Students planning or returning from internships in companies or other organizations may find a particular interest in the paradigm change which the evolution of Business & Human Rights is causing for organizational management, leadership and governance
Business & Human Rights: Governance, Leadership and Management:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Essay
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Description of the exam procedure

The exam s a max ten page essay, which must be based in part on the course literature and reflect the student’s learning during the course. The essay is graded according to the 7-point scale by the course coordinators and an external examiner.
The essay is an opportunity for the student to engage in some depth with a particular issue within the broad area of topics covered by the Business & Human Rights agenda. The essay may discuss a particular human rights challenge (such as child labour, the freedom to organize or business restrictions on employees’ freedom of movement); or a particular sector from the perspective of one or more specific businesses or human rights; or particular case from the perspective of a business or its business relations, civil society/campaigners, media or national or international policy makers or regulators. The essay offers the student the opportunity to work with a particular issue as an entry point for analysis and reflection on a broader selection of topics covered by the course.

Course content and structure

Content, structure, and teaching

The course gives a comprehensive introduction to the field of business & human rights. Starting from an introduction to human rights and global governance in general, the role and responsibility of business with regards to human rights will be explored and contextualized, mainly with reference to the framework of United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) from 2011 and as this has developed since. Managerial and business leadership perspectives will be the main focus, while also considering the interaction between state, business and civil society. Intersections between human rights, corporate social responsibility and sustainability will be touched upon.


The course takes its point of departure in recent years’ development of human rights guidance for business organizations and the evolution of a Business & Human Rights paradigm that connects with and complements the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) discourse. The course equips students with insight, abilities and competences on the significance of human rights to organizations engaged in economic activities, or whose partners do so. Human rights are increasingly of importance to the conduct of business organizations of all sizes, financial actors, and public organizations. Direct or indirect contributions to abuse of human rights may increase the risk profile of an organization, whether private or public. Respect for human rights may enhance an organization’s opportunities for innovation, access to finance and successful stakeholder management. Respecting human rights contributes to risk managing for businesses or other economic organizations (such as a state owned enterprise or public institutions which fund economic activities of other organizations). However, a proper handling of human rights requires insight into the complexity of international instruments, agreements and institutions that relate to human rights. Built around the UN ‘Respect, Protect and Remedy’ Framework on Business and Human Rights (2008) and the UNGPs (2011), the course enables students to engage in activities related to organization, policy and strategy, supply chain management, human rights impact analysis and due diligence, as well as critically reflecting on the human rights implications of broader CSR issues.


This course contributes to equipping students with the capacity to analyze and identify society’s expectations as regards an organization’s impact on human rights through economic activities, and to understand the significance from the perspective of private and public organizations concerned with sustainable human development and responsible organizational conduct. We will explore opportunities, dilemmas and challenges which arise with the maturization of Business & Human Rights. Through interaction during the course with company representatives we will discuss and generate insight on implications for management of several areas of a company, hereunder responsible supply chain management, of transparency accountability and communication, of sustainable development, business self-regulation to respond to social expectations, and stakeholder relations. We will also discuss what an emerging public regulation of business in relation to human rights offers from the perspective of ‘creation of shared value’ and the CSR of business and its impacts on society. We will work through cases, documentaries and sustainability reports to obtain a hands-on approach and to back this will apply theory on business and human rights from a crossdisciplinary perspective on social science.

The course will contribute to the development of students’ competences through a combination of lectures, invited guest lecturers with specific experience in Business & Human Rights dilemmas, cases, student led sessions and field visits. 

Preliminary Course Plan/Syllabus
Textbook: Ruggie, John (2013) Just Business, W.W. Norton Publishing


1.      Introduction and Introductory lecture: Why human rights matter to business: From slavery to Rana Plaza (Karin Buhmann)
Introduction to course
This part of the first course session is an introduction to the course plan, syllabus, teaching form (lectures, guest lectures, student work and presentations), form of examination, and readings (textbook, required readings, recommended readings). Students get an opportunity to ask questions about the above, and to introduce themselves and explain particular interests or past experience of relevance to the course. This will enable the lecturers to draw on such experience or interests in class, and students to identify issues for debate in class or group work.
Introductory lecture: Human Rights and their relation to business: Evolution of a discourse and similarities and differences from Corporate Social Responsibility
This part offers an introduction to human rights as a topic of increasingly acute relevance to global governance as well as to businesses from a number of operational perspectives: risk management, finance and economy, supply chain management, procurement, stakeholder management, reporting, communication, etc., as well as for other organizations to campaign to raise business respect for human rights. The lecture will also introduce human rights and business as an issue that is both part of CSR, and explain why the issue is increasingly taking on its own distinct character, partly as a global governance response to the idea of ‘creating shared valued’ proposed by Porter & Kramer.
Textbook (Ruggie, John (2013) Just Business, W.W. Norton Publishing): xxv (top of page) -xlii (below middle of page), 39-68, 78-80
Taylor, Mark (2011) The Ruggie Framework: Polycentric regulation and the implications for Corporate Social Responsibility, Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics, vol. 5, No. 1: 9-30; 
Buhmann, Karin (2012) Damned if you do, damned if you don’t? The Lundbeck case of Pentobarbital, the Guiding Principles on business and human rights, and competing human rights responsibilities. International Journal of Law, Ethics and Medicine, Summer 2012: 206-219
Buhmann, K., Mette Morsing and Lynn Roseberry (2011): Introduction, in Buhmann, Morsing & Roseberry (eds.) Corporate Social and Human Rights Responsibilities: Global Legal and Management Perspectives, PalgraveMacmillan: 1-22
Ruggie, John Gerard (2014) Global Governance and ‘New Governance Theory’: Lessons from Business and Human Rights, Global Governance, Vol. 20: 5-17
Porter, Michael and Mark Kramer (2011) Creating Shared Value, Harvard Business Review, January/February 2011
Global CSR (2013) Human Rights explained for business (preview), pp. 1-15, 80-81, 108-103.
Global CSR (2013) Constructive Campaigning (preview)
2.     What are human rights, and what is the link to business? Philosophical and legal foundations (KB, ER)
Philosophical foundations: (Eskil Riskær)
The first part of the lecture introduces the student to the philosophical foundations of human rights within a contemporary context of concerns for globalized justice, and how this relates to corporations and organizational justice. The question of human rights is addressed by Benhabib (2013) who proposes a discourse-theoretic and embedded account of human rights, as opposed to “traditional” agent-centric accounts as well as to “political” accounts. In her seminal paper, O’Neil (2001) positions the discussion of justice and human rights with regards to corporations and other non-state actors as responsible “agents of justice”.  Finally, Murphy and Vivis (2013) offers a more hands-on view of human rights and the UN framework from a perspective of organizational justice, with a case study from the extractives industry, an industry that will be returned to again in lecture 8. These texts will be discussed in relation to the account of the UN Guiding Principles in Ruggie (2013).
Legal foundations: (Karin Buhmann)
The second part of the lecture introduces students to the legal foundations for human rights as the normative foundation for social expectations of business as well as emerging regulatory requirements on business to respect human rights. With a point of departure in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this part of the lecture will explain the role of human rights the United Nations (UN) Global Compact and set the background for the evolution of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011) to be discussed in more detail from lecture 3.
Benhabib, Seyla (2013) “Reason-Giving and Rights-Bearing: Constructing the Subject of Rights”; Constellations Volume 20, No 1, 2013. [13 p.]
O’Neill, O. (2001), “Agents of Justice”, Metaphilosophy, 32(1-2): 180-195. [16. P]
Murphy, Matthew and Vives, Jordi (2013) Perceptions of Justice and the Human Rights Protect, Respect, and Remedy Framework; J Bus Ethics (2013) 116:781–797; [17 p.]
Textbook (Ruggie): xxviii-xlvi
Recommendedto be read before class and bring to class
Universal Declaration on Human Rights (available at
UN Global Compact Principles 1 and 2 (Human rights); overview of Human Rights issues ( http://unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/TheTenPrinciples/humanRights.html); and detailed Human Rights issues page ( http://unglobalcompact.org/Issues/human_rights/index.html)
Jack Donnelly (2013) Universal Human Rights – In Theory and Practice, 3rd. Edition; Cornell University Press, Sage House, Ithica. Chapter 1
The Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework and United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Background, context and method for identifying normative substance (KB)
This lecture introduces students to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which in 2011 were adopted by the United Nations, as well as the ‘Protect, Respect & Remedy Framework’, which precedes the Guiding Principles and establish the normative basis. The lecture explains the background to UN efforts to develop guidance on business and human rights, the multi-stakeholder process through which the guidance was developed, and introduces methods for identifying human rights issues facing business enterprises.
Textbook: xv-xxv, xlii (below middle of page)-l, 68-78, 83 (top of page) -127
Buhmann, Karin: Stakeholder analysis: Bringing legal method into the class room to strengthen board room appreciation of stakeholders’ interests(draft manuscript, to be uploaded)
Buhmann, K. (2013) Business and Human Rights: Analysing Discursive Articulation of Stakeholder Interests to Explain the Consensus-based Construction of the ‘Protect, Respect, Remedy UN Framework’. International Law Research, Vol. 1, Issue 1: 88-101
UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights, available through http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf
Textbook: 80-83 top of page
UN Framework ‘Protect, Respect & Remedy’, available at http://www.reports-and-materials.org/Ruggie-report-7-Apr-2008.pdf
Monash University, ’Human Rights translated’
Human Rights in the apparel and textile industry: Between the Corporate Responsibility to Respect and the State Duty to Protect (KB)
Film: Documentary (textile production and/or Rana Plaza)
Guest lecturer(s): company representative from Danish textile or apparel company
By taking a point of departure in the apparel and textile industry, this lecture brings the issue of business and human rights into an operational context that touches on several angles, including risk management, supply chain management and communication. The case and lecture by a company representative serves to stimulate students to think about the practical implications of human rights for business and some of the several and sometimes surprising ways in which human rights may be affected by business operations.
Textbook: 173-192
Chios C. Carmody (2013) The Shirts on Our Backs: The Rana Plaza Disaster, Interdependence, and the Shifting Locus of Responsibility, available at SSRN through http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2292183
The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights: An Interpretive Guide, available through http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/HR.PUB.12.2_En.pdf
New York Times 22 May 2013 on safety plans textile industry Bangladesh, at http://lateralpraxis.com/download/Supply%20chain%20and%20Ethics.pdf



Human Rights, communication, responsible business relations management and responsible campaigning: Case: cocoa beans and child labour (KB and guest lecturer)
Guest lecturer: Representative of Danish MNC (e.g. Toms, or Lundbeck)
Again with a point of departure in a specific case, this lecture focuses on the challenges which media campaigning on human rights issues may raise for businesses with established CSR policies and CSR communication. In addition, the session and guest lecture will stimulate students to think about responsible supply chain management/responsible value chain management and how a business may handle allegations or findings of human rights violations in its supply chain or among business partners in a manner that is socially responsible in taking the short, medium and longer term impact on affected individuals into account.
During the first part of session students will discuss and prepare questions for the guest lecturer based on materials on a case or dilemma related to human rights which that company has encountered in recent years. This is followed by a guest lecture.
Textbook 152 (top of page) – 153 (mid-page)
Guidelines for Responsible Supply Chain Management (Danish Council for Social Responsibility), http://erhvervsstyrelsen.dk/file/223939/guidelines_for_sustainable_supply_chain_management.pdf
UN Global Compact Principles 1-6 ( http://unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/TheTenPrinciples/labour.html) and explanation of Principle 5 ( http://unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/TheTenPrinciples/principle5.html)
Most recent sustainability report for company represented by guest lecturer
To be announced, if relevant
6.  Field visit: Translating human rights into practice for business
Through a visit to one or two institutions which are working with human rights in a business context in practice, this session complements business related cases by providing students with insight into some additional practical, operational and employment-wise perspectives related to Business & Human Rights. The focus is on analytical tools and economic and/or financial conditions pertaining to enhancing business respect for human rights for large as well as small and medium sized companies.
The Human Rights & Business Project at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (tbc)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Human Rights requirements in the ‘Business to Business’ cooperation programme and/or IFU and/or the Danish Export Credit Council
[to follow]
Human Rights due diligence (KB)
Human Rights due diligence is a process oriented approach to risk identification, risk analysis and risk management. If offers an opportunity for businesses to understand the numerous ways in which they may affect human rights during the course of an activity, and where risks are identified to prevent or mitigate and ensure appropriate remedy. Through identifying risks which a business may cause to human rights, a business may also reduce reputational, economic and other risks to itself that may result from adverse human rights impact. The lecture focuses on the process of human rights due diligence and proceeds to discussing due diligence situations as well as benefits for businesses.
Sarianna M. Lundan and Peter Muchlinski (2012) Human Rights Due Diligence in Global Value Chains, in New Policy Challenges for European Multinationals: Progress in International Business Research, Volume 7, Emerald: 181–201
Fasterling, B & G Demuinck (2013) Human Rights in the Void? Due Diligence in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,Journal of Business Ethics: 1-16 
Bonnitcha, Jonathan & Robert McCorquedale (2013) Is the concept of ‘due diligence’ in the Guiding Principles coherent? Available at SSRN http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2208588
Footer, Mary (2012) Shining Brightly? Human Rights and the Responsible Sourcing of Diamond and Gold Jewellery from High Risk and Conflict-Affected AreasHuman Rights and International Legal Discourse, Vol. 6 No. 1: 159-191
UN Guiding Principles, sections on Due Diligence
OECD Guidelines, sections on Due Diligence

Interlinkages, transparency and remedy: Corporate Responsibility to Respect: the oil, gas and mining industries, conflict zones, and access to remedy (KB)
Lecture and student led presentations and discussion
Taking a point of departure in human rights dilemmas arising in the context of natural resource extraction in conflict areas or states with weak national institutions, this session connects the Corporate Responsibility to Respect to issues of weak governance and access to remedy. The lecture provides an introduction to Access to Remedy, the third pillar of the UN Framework, focusing on the National Contact Points under OECD’s Guidelines as a non-judicial remedial organisation. To offer experience in analyzing and arguing complex cases, students will discuss specific issues that may be considered in lodging a case in groups and challenge each other in panels. The debate will be based on one or two cases from OECD National Contact Point or related to natural resource extraction from a broad Danish/Nordic (possibly Greenlandic) perspective.
Textbook 132 – 141, 148-151, 153 (mid-page)- 157 (bottom of page)
Ans Kolk & Francois Lenfant (2010) MNC reporting on CSR and conflict in Central AfricaJournal of Business Ethics (2010) 93:241–255
Buhmann, K. & Cedric Ryngaert (2012) Human Rights challenges for multinational corporations working and investing in conflict zones. Introductory article for special issue of Human Rights and International Legal Discourse, 2012, Vol. 6, No. 1:3-13

EU Guidelines for the Oil and Gassector, European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry, Human Rights and Business website [96 pages?]
OECD (2013) Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas: pp. 7-30,
available at http://www.oecd.org/daf/inv/mne/GuidanceEdition2.pdf
Cristina Cedillo (2011) Better Access to Remedy in Company-Community Conflicts in the field of CSR: A Model for Company_Based Grievance Mechanisms
OECD Watch (2013) Calling for Corporate Accountability: A Guide to the 2011 OECD
Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, available through http://oecdwatch.org/publications-en/Publication_3962
Textbook 157 (bottom of page) - 166
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, available at http://www.oecd.org/daf/inv/mne/48004323.pdf
Public Procurement (ER)
This session will look at the overlap between human rights and public procurement practices. The Norwegian Guide “Walk the Talk” will give the student an understanding of such an overlap from the EU perspective of a c similar to Denmark. While the ICAR commissioned report “Government Procurement” focuses on public procurement of the US Government, the single biggest purchaser in the world, there are considerable points of similarity between the two reports, underlining the transnational character of the overlap between human rights and public purchasing. When the UN Guiding Principles were announced in 2011, an addendum on “Principles for responsible contract” in State-investor contract negotiations was included, a reading of which will give the student a still deeper understanding of the comprehensiveness of the Guiding Principles framework, as well as hint at how such contracting principles also might apply in business-to-business relations.
Difi (2012) “SRPP Guide: Walk the talk: Ensuring socially responsible public procurement”; available at http://anskaffelser.no/filearchive/srpp-guide_november-14-2012.pdf; 21 p.
ICAR (2013) “Government Procurement: Promoting Procurement Policies that Ensure Business Respect for Human Rights”; Summary of Forthcoming Report, December 2013; available at http://accountabilityroundtable.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ICAR-Government-Procurement-Project-Geneva-Summary-Document-Final.pdf; 23 p.
UN (2011) Addendum to the Guiding Principles “Principles for responsible contracts: integrating the management of human rights risks into State-investor contract negotiations: guidance
for negotiators”; A/HRC/17/31/Add.3; available at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Business/A.HRC.17.31.Add.3.pdf; 30 p.
10. Matters of Size: SMEs and Human Rights (ER)
The Guiding Principles and corresponding business obligations concerning human rights, such as for example due diligence, apply to all businesses, whether they are MNCs or Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). However, the resources and business models available to a business seems to differ markedly depending on the size of the business. In this session we will look at different ways of understanding challenges of Human Rights as these apply to SMEs. Initially we note that Ruggie (2013) suggests a tight connection between CSR and Human Rights. Vazques-Carrasco and López-Pérez (2013) gives a review of literature on CSR and SMEs. More in-depth manner, Baumann-Pauly et al (2013) offers us a framework for analyzing and understanding differences in organizing CSR depending on firm size. Finally, EC (2013) is a hands-on-guide commissioned by the EU Commission targeting SMEs, offering suggestions as to how the Guiding Principles may be incorporated into business practices of SMEs.
Textbook (Ruggie 2013) p. xxv-xxviii
Vazques-Carrasco and López-Pérez (2013) Small & medium-sized enterprises and Corporate Social Responsibility:a systematic review of the literature, Quality & Quantity October 2013, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 3205-3218
Baumann-Pauly et al (2013)  Organizing Corporate Social Responsibility in Small and Large Firms: Size Matters,Journal of Business EthicsJuly 2013, Volume 115, Issue 4, pp 693-705
EC (2013) My business and human rights: A guide to human rights for small and medium-sized enterprises; European Commission
Ciliberti et al (2008) Investigating corporate social responsibility in supply chains: a SME perspective; Journal of Cleaner Production 16 (2008) 1579–1588
Ethical Trading Initiative Norway (2013): A Guide to Human Rights Due Diligence in Global Supply Chains (accessed 08.01.2014 via: http://etiskhandel.no/Artikler/10078.html)
Theme day, course overview and Q&A session before essay submission (KB, ER)
This session will comprise three main elements: One part is devoted to issues which students feel need additional coverage for the exam, or simply based on interest, such as issues that may lead to student projects. The second is an overview of the course and the themes covered. The third part is a Q&A session before the exam.
Issues or questions should be sent to the instructors no later than 48 hours prior to the session start (by e-mail to kbu.ikl@cbs.dk and ekr.ikl@cbs.dk), note ‘student interest issue’, ‘overview issue’, or ‘Q&A question’ in the message heading, depending on the character of the point you wish to be addressed.

Teaching methods
Lectures, invited guest lecturers with specific experience in Business & Human Rights dilemmas, cases, student led sessions and field visits
Student workload
Preparation: Students are expected to spend around 14 hours for preparation on average per session (except for session 6, requiring around 3 hours) 143 hours
Classes (11 x 3 hours) 33 hours
Exam essay 30 hours
Expected literature

Textbook: Ruggie, John (2013) Just Business, W.W. Norton Publishing

 Journal articles etc.noted under each session

Last updated on 17-02-2015