Promoting Business and Human Rights in Practice and in the Classroom

“The rapid development of this field is remarkable”, Logos Senior Fellow Anthony Ewing tells law students at Columbia University, where he has taught Transnational Business and Human Rights since 2001. “I guarantee you will encounter these issues early on in your careers, whether you advise corporate clients, advocacy organizations, or government policymakers.”

That was not always true.

As Ewing has written,

“When companies operating in China adopted the first corporate human rights codes of conduct in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square in 1989, business managers and human rights advocates could scarcely speak the same language. By 2011, when Egyptian demonstrators filled Tahrir Square, business people and advocates alike framed the human rights issues at stake in the shared language and concepts of corporate human rights responsibilities. In just over twenty years, the field of business and human rights had come into its own.”

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Along the way, for the past fifteen years, Anthony has contributed to the development of business and human rights as both a field of practice, and a field of study. As a business advisor, he helps companies to engage stakeholders, conduct due diligence, and implement policies and programs to manage the risk of adverse human rights impacts. As an academic member of the United Nations Global Compact Human Rights and Labour Working Group, Anthony works to identify and disseminate corporate responsibility best practices. He has also served as an independent corporate responsibility expert for the International Labour Organization, evaluating a program to eliminate child labor from the production of soccer balls in Pakistan.

Ewing has also contributed to the field through his teaching, writing and promotion of business and human rights education. Most recently, Anthony authored a chapter on mandatory human rights reporting for the new textbook, Business and Human Rights: From Principles to Practice, published last month by Routledge.

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Five years ago, Ewing co-founded the Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum, a platform for collaboration among individuals teaching business and human rights worldwide. The Forum has grown to include more than 225 members teaching business and human rights at some 115 institutions in 28 countries. Next week, the Forum’s sixth annual Teaching Business and Human Rights Workshop at Columbia University will bring together Forum members teaching at business schools, at law schools, and at schools of public policy.

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One project of the Teaching BHR Forum, aimed at connecting teachers with resources for teaching the most common business and human rights topics, is an online Teaching Business and Human Rights Handbook. Anthony contributed the first teaching note, on Introducing the UN Guiding Principles and Business and Human Rights, and is leading the effort to recruit faculty to author additional Notes.

“Promoting business and human rights education in every setting, and teaching it effectively, has the potential — not only to help companies meet their responsibilities and improve business performance — but to strengthen the enjoyment, protection and provision of human rights for everyone,” says Ewing.

For more about his work, please contact Anthony Ewing at: aewing@logosconsulting.net.

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