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2022/2023  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 Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
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 15-02-2022

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 business & human rights agenda poses to management and leadership, and deliver well argued recommendations.
Course prerequisites
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
Der skal indleveres en ny besvarelse hvis den studerende ikke er bestået den ordinære eksamen.
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 (BHR). 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. We consider societal challenges to business impacts that caused the emergence of BHR as an autonomous area of research and a practice-oriented field of business in society with specific expectations and demands on businesses and business responses, We look at business governance frameworks on BHR, especially the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), the background for these, and other transnational business governance frameworks that have been shaped by the UNGPs. We consider the theoretical and practical implications of these governance frameworks for business management and for leadership across the private and the public sector to advance responsible business conduct. The interaction between state, business and civil society is a key aspect of the course in order to equip students with knowledge to understand challenges and opportunities BHR from the perspectives of governance, leadership and management. Intersections between human rights, corporate social responsibility and sustainability will be touched upon.


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.


The course provides students with insights on implications for responsible business conduct and management in areas such as  responsible supply chain management, transparency accountability and communication,  business self-regulation to respond to social expectations, and stakeholder relations. We will also look at what an increase in public regulation of business in relation to their societal impacts - a development that has largely been driven by the strengthening of BHR - means for managers' efforts to engage in responsible business conduct. We will work through cases, documentaries and guest lectures by representatives of companies and civil society to obtain a hands-on approach and to back this will apply theory on business and human rights from an interdisciplinary social science perspective.  


As an academic field, Business and Human Rights (BHR) is an interdisciplinary field, it is novel, and still emergent. As a field of practice, the same applies. As a result, we do not always have set answers – and much depends on the argumentation. Indeed, in the human rights field in general, arguments presenting a particular side of a (perceived) conflict, violation, or opportunity for improvement, is highly contingent on the argument presenting a particular view, or arguments presenting competing views. The course is designed to equip students with the relevant qualification in this regard. Interactive parts of the course generally take the form of discussions, students asking questions, and doing exercises and cases.


It is also worth noticing that due to the interdisciplinary character of BHR, in this course do not talk about or apply theories in quite the same manner as in conventional CBS courses. We approach the United Nations report called the UN ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework as providing an overall theoretical framework on Business and Human Rights, and apply theory contributions from various fields including business ethics and management to illustrate the interdisciplinary character and understand how this impacts arguments and positions. Moreover, we cover human rights standards set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights form a core element. The reason is that without knowing what specific rights companies might be involved in abusing, we cannot understand and discuss what critiques they encounter, what they should do to avoid causing or otherwise being involved in harm, or what they should do if harm does occur.


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, exercises and possibly field visits to one or more organizations.
Feedback during the teaching period
We encourage you to ask questions or make comments in class and form self-study groups to secure peer feedback on your work. 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).
Student workload
Teaching 30 hours
Preparation 146 hours
Exam essay 30 hours
In total 206 hours
Expected literature

Textbook: Karin Buhmann (2021) Human Rights: A Key Idea for Business and Society. Routledge.


Selected academic articles to complement and expand the textbook's chapters.


Selected reports and studies from the United Nations on Business & Human Rights.


Teaching cases.


Detailed literature list will be available on Canvas. Journal articles etc. noted under each class session.

Last updated on 15-02-2022