PRME Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Description

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The PRME Working Group on Business and Human Rights (PRME WGBHR) aims to complement the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” developed by Professor John Ruggie, and draw upon the synergies generated by the UN Global Compact (UNGC).  The PRME WGBHR will fill an important gap in bringing the UNGC’s principles on human rights and Professor Ruggie’s work into management education and business thought leadership. The PRME WGBHR aims to generate multi-stakeholder collaboration on business and human rights issues among the PRME community, academia, business, civil society, and the United Nations.

The primary objective of the PRME WGBHR is to stimulate dialogue among business schools and the corporate community concerning human rights principles. Discussions about best practices will be regularly conducted in order to nurture the understanding and integration of human rights principles. Given that human rights principles and codified human rights conventions embrace a wide range of rights concerning labour, the PRME WGBHR will also address relevant labour issues associated with the concept of human rights. The PRME WGBHR also will explore training sessions that are focused on human rights topics of interest across academia and industry. Topics will be chosen based on discussions generated in roundtables and will address specific interests of the PRME community.

The working group aims to reach Deans and Associate Deans of business schools to engage them in curriculum change and research pertaining to human rights in a business context and related compliance and sustainability issues. Members will be identified for the PRME WBHR agenda in order to align management education with business practices and international policy-making. Specific components of the mandate of the PRME WGBHR will involve the following:

  • To advance teaching and research on respect and support for human rights (including relevant labour principles) among business schools within the framework of the UNGC with a particular emphasis on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Guiding Principles) and their relevance to management education;
  • To educate current and future business leaders, both in business schools and in the corporate world, on evolving corporate responsibility principles and practices and to explore implementation methodologies with a focus on human rights;
  • To act as a platform for collective business school and multi-stakeholder action concerning human rights principles;
  • To enhance synergies and cooperation on business and human rights principles with other initiatives (while avoiding duplication) ;
  • To generate resources, identify good practices, and provide recommendations that can serve PRME signatories, UNGC participants, and prospective participants among business schools and businesses about the Business and Human Rights Working Group;  and
  • To support regional PRME Chapters and their efforts to promote respect and support of human rights principles in the business school context.

 

Institutional Relationships and Synergies with the UNGC and PRME Community

The UN Global Compact’s Human Rights and Labour Working Group (UNGC HRLWG) would be the primary institutional counterpart to the PRME WBHR. Synergies should be maximised to amplify impact of PRME principles and minimise overlap across the PRME and UN community. The UNGC HRLWG produces Good Practice Notes and case studies that provide a useful model of good business practices with regard to human rights. These resources help demonstrate that advancing human rights is about more than managing risks and meeting standards, but can be developed as a competency for sustainable growth. Relevant background information on the UNGC’s work on the issues can be found in the Note on the Global Compact and Business and Human Rights

 

Composition of the WGBHR

The composition of the PRME WGBHR will follow an inclusive inter-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approach.  The PRME WGBHR will consist of business schools across the globe, many of which are already members of PRME. New efforts of PRME seek to attract business schools spearheading research and teaching in the field and encourage them to contribute to the PRME WGBHR and become active participants of PRME.  Respectively, legal studies and business ethics departments are intrinsically akin to introducing a normative rights-based methodology into management education and a business research agenda. While law is dealing with the social impact of business primarily in terms of risks, an important flipside of the same issue is value creation on the part of business and society. In line with these principles, social entrepreneurship programmes are natural targets for collaboration to advance the case of responsible business conduct.  Institutionally at business schools, there will be an effort to engage Deans, Associate Deans, key faculty members, alumni and graduate students. 

The chair of the PRME WGBHR is Dr. Caroline Kaeb, Assistant Professor of Business Law and Human Rights at the University of Connecticut. Collaborating closely with Professor Kaeb is Professor David Scheffer in the role of co-chair. He is the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law and Director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law. Professors Kaeb and Scheffer have collaborated for years on issues relevant to the PRME WGBHR.  The contact person from the PRME Secretariat is Nikolay Ivanov, Coordinator, PRME.

 

Projected Activities

Some of the activities that we envision to coordinate while drawing up existing efforts and synergies particularly by the UNGC HRLWG, are:

  • Policy roundtables: Organizing of policy roundtables with representatives from relevant stakeholder groups to further promote the understanding and integration of human rights into university programming, research, and business thinking and provide a platform for mutual learning.
  • Webinars:  PRME WGBHR will expand webinar offerings in business and human rights. The use of webinars will promote policy roundtables and training opportunities for industry representatives and stakeholders with interest in PRME activities.
  • Business and Human Rights Dilemmas Forum:  The Global Compact’s existing Dilemma’s Forum will generate much potential for cross-stimulation and provides an established partner to expand the forum’s activities into specialized business and human rights dilemmas. A specialized Business and Human Rights Dilemmas Forum will serve as a platform to examine the results of policy roundtables. The forum will provide business leaders and academics with the opportunity to discuss practical challenges pertinent to their individual interests.
  • Business and Human Rights Learning Tool:  The learning tool and related guidance materials can be informed by experiences, best practices, and challenges in different industries. The tool will combine PRME WGBHR’s policy roundtables with relevant industry input.  The Human Rights and Business Learning Tool, prepared by the UNGC and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, offers a certificate programme to demonstrate complete understanding of business and human rights practices and offers a readily accessible resource that can be built upon for the PRME WBHR agenda.
  • Participation in events: The PRME WGBHR may present and launch deliverables and resources generated in various PRME events and opportunities such as the PRME Regional Meetings and Chapter Meetings, Research Conferences, and other PRME-related events.

 

Activities

During 2015/16, the PRME WGBHR has coordinated the following engagement activities:

  • Launch and introduction of the PRME WGBHR and its mission at the UN Global Compact HRLWG’s session at GC+15 in New York, June 23, 2015 and the PRME WBHR session at the PRME Global Forum on 24 June, 2015 in New York;
  • On December 14, 2015, hosted a webinar to engage with more potential members for the Working Group, as well as further identify activities and projects to undertake;
  • Delivered progress update on the PRME WGBHR at The Business and Human Rights Forum hosted by the UN Working Group in Geneva on November 16-18, 2015;
  • Prepared updated cover letter to promote open letter “Open Letter to Academic Institutions: Educate Future Managers and Leaders on Business and Human Rights,” developed by the UNGC and PRME and collectively signed by relevant stakeholders;
  • Presented PRME WGBHR and moderated discussion on WGBHR’s role and contribution to address contemporary challenges regarding business school instruction of business and human rights at Conference on Business & Human Rights: Implications for Management, Knowledge Needs and Teaching, at Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark, May 2016.

In 2017, the WGBHR will continue its efforts around the three areas of outreach, data collection, and teaching resources:

  • Organizing outreach effort to promote the “Open Letter to Academic Institutions: Educate Future Managers and Leaders on Business and Human Rights” (see above) to encourage business schools to place human rights in their curricula and associated activities. The goal is to the increase the number of corporate signatures in particular.
  • Joint effort with Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum at Columbia University to build a business and human rights academic directory. For this purpose, (1) conducting empirical study about business and human rights instruction in law schools, business schools, and international affairs school globally (2) conducting survey among membership base of both initiatives for their input on academic programming in the area of business and human rights at their respective academic institutions. The data collected will be analyzed and then made available on PRME’s web presence; corporate sponsorship for an online repository and the development of a tool kit might be sought with the support of the PRME Secretariat.
  • Contributing to the development of teaching resources, in particular a Teaching Handbook on business and human rights issues in a joint effort with the Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum at Columbia University. Members of PRME WGBHR are invited to submit teaching notes on select business and human rights topics of their expertise and background.
  • Connecting with the regional PRME Chapters and PRME signatory schools for purposes of outreach and awareness raising;
  • Hosting webinar on challenges of teaching business and human rights and engagement opportunities with new actions platforms of the Global Compact (planned for early fall 2017).

 

Funding

The PRME WGBHR will seek corporate sponsorship in order to fund its activities.  This effort will be supplemented by inviting participants of roundtables and training sessions to cover their own travel and accommodation expenses and reasonable fees for the events. Additional costs may be covered by corporate sponsors where applicable. The PRME WGBHR also will engage with business schools to invite them to sponsor some of the Working Group activities, for instance by hosting various roundtables and/or training sessions.

 

How to Join

If you are interested in joining the working group, please complete this registration form.

If you would like to receive more information on this working group please contact:

Co-Chair: Caroline Kaeb at Caroline.Kaeb@business.uconn.edu 
Co-Chair: David Scheffer at d-scheffer@law.northwestern.edu

Contact from the PRME Secretariat: Nikolay Ivanov at ivanov@unglobalcompact.org

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