Human Rights and International Business Policy (LAWM631)

StaffMichael Addo - Convenor
Credit Value15
Academic Year2014/5
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Business and human rights is an emerging discipline that challenges scholars and practitioners to think outside conventional lines. This module will therefore aim to critically assess the veracity of some of the proposals for integrating human rights into business policy. You will be expected to confront conceptual issues such as the role of corporations in society and the business case for human rights. In addition, you will confront practical challenges such as the nature of human rights due diligence and the implementation of the UN Guiding principles on Business and Human Rights. This module will be especially relevant if you are taking courses in Business Law and international Human Rights. It will enrich your opportunities for employment in a variety of contexts including within companies, government departments in international organisations and with non-governmental organisations. The Guided Independent Research component of the assessment will allow you to undertake detailed research on topics of interest and allow you to enhance your research and analytical skills.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate deep and critical awareness of a wide range of social and contextual implications of the issues raised by human rights and business;
  • 2. compare, analyse and synthesise innovatively the principal national and international standards and initiatives relating to business and human rights;
  • 3. identify, explain and evaluate key issues relating to business and human rights critically and comprehensively and to apply relevant rules and a range of theories systematically.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. demonstrate detailed and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of a range of actors and stakeholders as well as legal principles, institutions and procedures, and the ability to evaluate systematically the relationships among them, as well as their limits;
  • 5. demonstrate flexible and innovative ability to analyse complex legal problems, identify the relative significance of applicable rules and principles, and select appropriate methods for investigating and critically evaluating them;
  • 6. integrate and assess complex information from primary and secondary legal sources/ advanced legal scholarship comprehensively, using appropriate interpretative techniques;

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. interact effectively, confidently and proactively within a team/learning group, to share information and ideas, and to manage conflict in a professional manner;
  • 8. manage relevant learning resources/ information/ learning strategies confidently and independently, and to develop own arguments and opinions at a very high/ professional level; and
  • 9. work independently and effectively, and to manage time efficiently in preparing for scheduled learning activities, exercises and assessments.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary each year, it is anticipated that it will cover the following topics in the order indicated below:


Business, Rule of Law and Society

            The Normative Framework – Freedom

            Conceptual tensions in human rights and business

            Practical problems concerning governance gaps

            The business case for human rights

Overview of social responsibility initiatives

            From corporate ethics to human rights

            Multi-stakeholder initiatives

            Intergovernmental initiatives

The United Nations Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework Guiding Principles

            Origins, Scope – What is so special?, Implementation, Access to remedy

            Special Themes: National Action Plans, Human Rights Due Diligence, Conflict Zones, Extra-territoriality

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Lectures and Seminars3010 x 3 hours seminars including introductory lectures, student-led seminars and guest speakers.
Guided independent study120A variety of study tasks under the guidance of the module leader that may include: • Introductory and General Reading Assignments (30 hours) • Web-based Research (20 Hours) • Library-based research (30 Hours) • Essay Preparation including literature review, writing, data analyses, consultations with staff (40 Hours)

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan: This essay will allow students to demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the social context of business and human rights and the legal challenges that this poses. It will also help with independent thinking and how to manage learning resources.500 words1-6 and 8-9Oral and written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1003,750 words1-6 and 8-9Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (3,750 words)1-6 and 8-9August/September Re-assessment Period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

John G. Ruggie, Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights, (WW Norton) 2013

Surya Deva and David Bilchitz (eds.), Human Rights Obligations of Business: Beyond the Corporate Responsibility to Respect, (CUP) 2013

Radu Mares (ed.), The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Nijhoff) 2012

Andrew Clapham, Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors (OUP) 2006

Milton Friedman, “The Social responsibility of Business is to Increase Profits”, The New York Times Magazine , September 13, 1970


Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Institute of Business and Human Rights

Business and Human Rights Resource centre

Business for Social Responsibility

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Human Rights and Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, UN Guiding Principles, Corporate Accountability