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Study information

Business and Human Rights Law

Module titleBusiness and Human Rights Law
Module codeLAW3198
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Malcolm Rogge (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Business and Human Rights Law provides a captivating introduction to this fast-moving topic of global importance. Business is everywhere and it impacts us all, whoever we are and wherever we may live. This module examines the obligations of business to uphold human rights and traces the development and implementation of an international legal framework tailored to achieving this aim.

You should take this module if you are interested in enhancing your knowledge and understanding of the human rights implications of business; responsible business practices; corporate responsibility; and the protection of human rights at the international, regional and domestic levels.

No prior knowledge of business or international human rights law is required to study on this module.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to support you in developing detailed knowledge and practical understanding of business and human rights law. It provides the theoretical, conceptual and legal grounding needed for you to confidently engage with others in the  professional field of business and human rights. Its content is informed by key texts and the latest research, and the module is permeated by representative contemporary case study examples from around the world. It is research-enriched, not only in respect to the content covered but also in its learning approach, with student-led research at its core. This is a cross-campus, interdisciplinary module that, by bringing together students, academics and practitioners from across business and law, and from across the University of Exeter’s campuses, delivers a learning experience that exemplifies the importance of collaboration in addressing contemporary global challenges.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. demonstrate detailed knowledge and understanding of business and human rights law;
  • 2. demonstrate critical awareness of the pervasive impacts of business practices on international human rights protection, and of different approaches to addressing those impacts;
  • 3. demonstrate critical awareness of the place of human rights in the private sphere.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. identify, assess and integrate relevant information from a breadth of suitable sources using appropriate interpretative techniques;
  • 5. select, synthesise and critically assess the existence, application and implementation of international normative provisions in a specific context.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. demonstrate confidence in articulating complex legal, theoretical and conceptual content using an interdisciplinary approach;
  • 7. produce analytically compelling, research-informed work that presents a persuasive and appropriately nuanced argument on a topic relevant to a theme or themes covered on the module;
  • 8. work independently, efficiently managing your time in the preparation of scheduled learning activities and assessments.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover all or some of the following topics:

  • Multinational enterprises and the global governance gap.The intersection of business practices and human rights protection, with case studies from a range of industry sectors, including, for example, garment manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, financial institutions, and extractives (mining, oil, and gas).
  • The evolution and challenges for accountability under State-centric human rights and the limits of corporate social responsibility (CSR). 
  • The development and implementation of an international legal framework specific to business and human rights, and the role and responsibility of business in upholding international human rights law.
  • Judicial and non-judicial remedies.
  • Corporate human rights due diligence.
  • Current developments in the field and the future of business and human rights.

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
Scheduled learning and teaching activities1111 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities7.55 x 1.5 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching activities84 x 2 hour workshops
Guided independent study73.5Preparation for scheduled learning and teaching sessions, including pre-reading and the completion of learning activities
Guided independent study50Preparation for assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Research posterA1 (including visuals and a maximum of 500 words)1-8Individual oral and written feedback; whole cohort oral 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
Research paper1002,500 words1-8Individual written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Research paperResearch paper (2,500 words)1-8August/September re-assessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Buhmann K, Human Rights: A Key Idea for Business and Society (Routledge 2021).
  • Wettstein F, Ethical, Legal, and Managerial Perspectives (Cambridge University Press 2022). Deva S and Bilchitz D (eds), Building a Treaty on Business and Human Rights
    Context and Contours (Cambridge University Press 2018).
  • Olawuyi D (ed), Business and Human Rights Law and Practice in Africa (Edward Elgar 2022).
  • Evans M (ed), International Law (5th edn, Oxford University Press 2018).
  • Newton E, The Business of Human Rights: Best Practice and the UN Guiding Principles (Routledge 2019).
  • Palombo D, Business and Human Rights: The Obligations of the European Home States (Hart 2020).
  • Rodriguez-Garavito C, Business and Human Rights: Beyond the End of the Beginning (Cambridge University Press 2017).
  • Smith R, International Human Rights Law (9th edn, Oxford University Press 2020).
  • Ruggie J, Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights (WWNorton 2013).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web-based and electronic resources:

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Other resources:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976) 999 UNTS 171.
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 3 January 1976) 993 UNTS 3.
  • UN Human Rights Council, ‘Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, John Ruggie, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework’ (21 March 2011) UN Doc A/HRC/17/31.
  • Legally Binding Instrument to Regulate, in International Human Rights Law, the Activities of Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises (Third Revised Draft) (17.8.2021)     

Key words search

Business, law, human rights, companies, corporate social responsibility


Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date