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2019/2020  KAN-CCBLV2015U  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 Quarter
Start time of the course First Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Min. participants 40
Max. participants 50
Study board
Study Board for BSc and MSc in Business, Language and Culture, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Karin Buhmann - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Business Law
  • Globalisation and international business
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 26-06-2019

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • 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 field of CSR/corporate 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 business enterprises 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 and Human Rights: Governance, Leadership and Management:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Essay
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Autumn
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Description of the exam procedure

The exam must be based in part on the course literature and reflect the student’s learning during the course.
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, structure and pedagogical approach

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.


Description of the teaching methods
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 possibly field visits to one or more organizations.
Feedback during the teaching period
For the period of teaching, individual feedback is offered during ‘office hours’ provided by faculty staff members teaching in the course (see day and time on Canvas). We also encourage you to ask questions or make comments in class and form self-study groups to secure peer feedback on your work.
Student workload
Teaching 30 hours
Preparation 146 hours
Exam essay 30 hours
In total 206 hours
Expected literature

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

Literature list will be available on Canvas. Journal articles etc. noted under each session

Last updated on 26-06-2019