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Business and Human Rights

  • Enseignant(s):  
  • Titre en français: Business et droits humains
  • Cours donné en: anglais
  • Crédits ECTS:
  • Horaire: Semestre d'automne 2021-2022, 2.0h. de cours (moyenne hebdomadaire)
  •  séances
  • site web du cours site web du cours
  • Formations concernées:
    Maîtrise universitaire ès Sciences en management, Orientation business analytics

    Maîtrise universitaire ès Sciences en management, Orientation stratégie, organisation et leadership

    Maîtrise universitaire ès Sciences en management, Orientation marketing

    Maîtrise universitaire ès Sciences en management, Orientation comportement, économie et évolution
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  • Understand the role business plays in human rights issues and improvements
  • Become aware of the major issues in the field of business and human rights
  • Learn approaches and strategies to improve the contribution of business to human rights


Business firms clearly affect human rights. On the one hand, there are multiple examples of how businesses harm and abuse human rights. On a regular basis, the media or NGOs present business and human rights scandals, such as the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, terrifying examples of modern slavery, or clear invasions of privacy by tech companies. On the other hand, business firms have also a strong potential to positively contribute to human rights. As until today, most countries lack clear regulations and liability to fully protect human rights. Moreover, many governments struggle to provide their citizens with the basis for a dignified life. Accordingly, it is up to business firms to use their strong economic power and international interconnectedness for a betterment in human rights.

Against this background, the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed a set of Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in June 2011. The Guiding Principles establish an authoritative global standard on the respective roles of businesses and governments in helping ensure that companies respect human rights in their own operations and through their business relationships. However, business and human rights issues remain severe because many business firms neglect the Guiding Principles or struggle to implement them effectively.

In this course, students will learn about the importance of business responsibility for human rights and will discuss current issues in the field of business and human rights. Based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, students will learn how business should approach human rights in practice. Among others, we will discuss how business firms can strategically develop their commitment to human rights, as well as how they can translate their commitment to effective action. There will be a strong emphasis on learning from practical examples and case studies.


Major Literature


1ère tentative

Sans examen (cf. modalités)  

Group Assignement

Group project (ca. 5 students): Human Rights Analysis and Improvement of a Specific Company

  • Choose 1 of 199 companies evaluated by the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark Alliance ( publication/chrb/rankings/type/ungp/) and shortly describe this company
  • Based on the Ranking Report, summarize what the company already does to address human rights and which aspects were negatively evaluated.
  • Analyze and describe which human rights issues are specifically relevant for the industry of the company (For further information see
  • Analyze and discuss what the company could improve in their approach to human rights. For this purpose, you should use the 3rd chapter of the Guide to “Doing Business with Respect for Human Rights” (, as well as practical examples from other companies in this industry.


Sans examen (cf. modalités)  
If the group assignment results in a non-passing grade, the group will be able to improve the work based on feedback. If individual students fail to participate in the group work (e.g., due to sickness), there will be an individual written assignment similar to the group assignment.

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