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Study information

Business and Human Rights Law & Policy

Module titleBusiness and Human Rights Law & Policy
Module codeLAWM166
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Malcolm Rogge (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Since the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011, business and human rights (BHR) has evolved into a complex and multi-faceted area of legal practice. This module will equip you with the practical and theoretical knowledge that you need to incorporate BHR into your career, whether in law, business, or policy making. As governments around the world have developed National Action Plans on business and human rights, and innovative legislation has been enacted, such as the French Duty of Vigilance Law of 2017, many of the world’s major law firms have responded by developing dedicated BHR practice groups. This module will give you the background you need to engage effectively and knowledgably in this exciting and growing area of expertise.  


It is recommended, but not required, that students taking this module have some background in either human rights or business law. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to equip you with what you need to know about the growing field of “business and human rights” so that you are able to engage with practitioners, experts, and clients. It also aims to give you a solid understanding of the interdisciplinary breadth of BHR and its truly global scope. The module will orient you to the vast array of legal and policy frameworks that have been developed over the last two decades for addressing the governance “gaps” that have emerged from economic globalization. You will learn how businesses today, including major multinational enterprises, incorporate human rights into their global policy frameworks; and you will learn about the growing demands on businesses to conduct human rights due diligence in their own operations, and in the operations of their suppliers. The module will also consider the challenges that rightsholders face in seeking effective remedy for business-related human rights harms. The knowledge you will gain in this module will be transferable to careers in corporate social responsibility (CSR), ESG investing, litigation, corporate compliance, sustainable finance, project finance, and countless other areas of law and policy.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. demonstrate detailed knowledge and critical understanding of established and emerging business and human rights law and policy frameworks;
  • 2. demonstrate critical awareness of the complex and multi-faceted relationship between human rights “risks to people” and material “risks to business.”

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. identify, assess and integrate relevant information from a breadth of suitable sources using appropriate interpretative techniques;
  • 4. select, synthesise and critically assess the existence, application and implementation of global normative provisions related to business and human rights in a specific context.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. demonstrate confidence in articulating complex legal, theoretical and conceptual content using an interdisciplinary approach;
  • 6. 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.

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:


  • The Global Governance Gap
  • The UNGPs, Pillars 1-3
  • Corporate Human Rights Policy Frameworks
  • Human Rights Due Diligence
  • The Proposed Business & Human Rights Treaty
  • Multistakeholder Initiatives & Voluntary Frameworks
  • Statutory Innovations in Comparative Perspective
  • Advocacy, Rightsholders, and Civil Society
  • Access to Remedy
  • Corporate Governance Innovations
  • Human Rights in International Economic Law (foreign investment, trade, etc.)
  • Simulation Exercises

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 Seminars1510 x 1.5 hour interactive seminars
Guided Independent Study60Preparation for seminars – reading, reflecting, analysing, and synthesising content
Guided Independent Study20Preparing formative essay topic and essay proposal
Guided Independent Study55Preparation and writing summative essay

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Proposed question and plan for summative essay 750 words1-6Oral 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
Essay1002000 words1-6Written feedback; additional oral feedback available on request

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay (2000 words)Essay (2000 words)1-6Referral/Deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Choudhury B, The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: A Commentary (Edward Elgar, 2023).
  • Olawuyi D (ed), Business and Human Rights Law and Practice in Africa (Edward Elgar 2022). 
  • 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).
  • Rogge M, Risk, Uncertainty and the Future of Corporate Human Rights Due Diligence, Corporate Responsibility Initiative Working Paper No. 81, 2022.
  • Ruggie J, Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights (WWNorton 2013).
  • 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).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • 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.
  • 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.

Key words search

Business and Human Rights; human rights due diligence; corporate responsibility; UNGPs; multinational enterprises

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date