With the rise in the power and functions of corporations in a globalised economy, business enterprises are increasingly expected to bear human rights responsibilities beyond the goal of maximising profit for shareholders. The adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and various other regulatory initiatives is reflective of this expectation. Against this background, this course aims to enable students to explore the evolution of business and human rights (BHR) as a specialised field, assess the relationship of BHR with other notions such as corporate social responsibility (CSR), and examine critically various regulatory initiatives that seek to promote socially responsible business conduct. BHR in this course is taken in a broad sense to include both legal and moral/ethical responsibilities of business in the areas of human rights, labour rights, and the environment. After providing background related to the intersection of business with human rights, students will be exposed to various BHR issues falling within the three broad sets of questions: why should business enterprises have human rights responsibilities; what is the nature and extent of these responsibilities; and how could human rights responsibilities be enforced against business enterprises and victims be provided effective remedies for corporate human rights abuses.
After completing this course, students should be able to discover why and how BHR policies should be integrated into day-to-day business decisions and how corporate executives could handle human rights dilemmas that arise during business operations. During the course, students should also be able to internalise the importance of acting in an ethical and socially responsible manner in their normal lives.