1. The case for human rights in business education
In today’s globalized economy, companies face a range of human rights challenges that are growing in importance and attracting increasing attention. Human Rights generate great student interest and complements teaching and research in many other areas of business education. Because so many of these issues are highly visible, business schools that incorporate human rights into their curricula will have the potential to enhance their public reputations, improve recruitment prospects for top students, strengthen their ratings, and generate new sources of funding. Incorporating human rights into the curriculum is also the right thing to do, because of the importance of these issues to society. As the current model for business education is being tested by rising costs and declining application numbers, schools that feature cutting-edge global issues like human rights in their teaching and research will be seen as leaders in shaping 21st-century global business education.
Human rights issues manifest themselves differently in each business sector. Companies that rely on global manufacturing or agricultural supply chains grapple with labor issues that run the gamut from worker safety to child labor. Mining companies routinely operate in conflict zones, where security challenges are ever-present and exploitation of women and children is a subject of constant concern. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted growing economic inequalities that fuel populism and nationalism, threatening to undermine economic and political stability. Those who exploit social media to exacerbate political divisions and amplify hate test the current governance models of online platforms. Businesses now are expected to navigate this complex terrain while operating in a fishbowl – a world dominated by new technologies that amplify public attention to all of these issues, putting the brand reputation of even the largest and most profitable companies at risk.
Most business schools have devoted little or no attention to these issues, but this is now about to change. As global businesses increasingly grapple with these challenges, business educators will be expected to provide the tools for current and future business leaders to grapple with these issues. Business schools offer the ideal venue to explore 21st-century human rights challenges, both in teaching future business leaders and conducting cutting-edge research. Business school professors will have an opportunity to work with corporate leaders, helping them better understand these complex challenges and develop the tools to address them. Over time, business schools can and should play a leading role in this new field, developing effective industry standards and metrics, as well as organizational insights into how to apply these standards in practice. Finally, business schools also can provide the empirical and conceptual framework to help corporate leaders and others build the business case for adopting long-term strategies to promote human rights.
Please find more information about how to integrate human rights in business school education in our toolkit “The Case for Human Rights in Business Education – A Tool Kit” (2020)
2. Business school networks to advance human rights in business education
Just beginning to take shape, the field of business and human rights (BHR) promises to become an important element of teaching and research at leading business schools. As part of the effort to accelerate the evolution of this area, the Global Network of Business Schools was founded in 2017 by the Center for Business and Human Rights at New York University’s Stern School of Business, the Alliance Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester, and the Geneva School of Economics and Management at the University of Geneva. This network now comprises almost 100 business schools.
On a parallel track, the larger Global Business School Network (GBSN), which connects more than 100 leading business schools from 50 countries to improve access to quality and locally relevant management education for the developing world, is an essential partner in this effort. Many of the schools in the GBSN orbit are located in the global South, where many human rights issues are playing out in real-time. Adding human rights to the business school curriculum provides an exciting opportunity for new forms of collaboration among these schools and their counterparts in Europe and North America. GBSN is well-positioned to serve as a resource and community for all business schools interested in advancing human rights in business education.
Following the publication of the toolkit in 2020, we joined forces with GBSN and created the Global Business School Network for Human Rights (GBSN-HR). GBSN-HR is now a learning community of the GBSN.
Since the spring of 2021, GBSN-HR also partners with PRME to expand the reach of GBSN-HR to all PRME participants and the wider community of scholars, teachers, and university decision-makers that are interested in supporting our agenda of advancing human rights in business education.
The PRME working group for business and human rights is chaired by Prof. Dorothée Baumann-Pauly (Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights, University of Geneva) and Prof. Michael Posner (NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, New York University). Doro and Mike direct the first human rights centers at business schools in Europe and the US.
GBSN-HR created thematic clusters for the broad and fast-evolving field of business and human rights. This substructure gives participants in our network the opportunity to work in smaller groups throughout the year to develop new collaborations for research and teaching