The Business and Human Rights Catalyst at AMBS joined representatives from 25 business schools across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North America to discuss how they plan to promote the teaching of, and research on, human rights as a major element of business education.
Academics at the meeting held at the Geneva School of Economics and Management (GSEM) were joined by representatives from the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the European Union’s Office of the Special Representative for Human Rights, and business school accreditation organisation the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD).
Along with the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights in New York, and GSEM, the AMBS Business and Human Rights Catalyst has been at the forefront of efforts to bring together academics in this field, and this was the second time that the event had been staged in Geneva after last year’s inaugural meeting. The meeting also coincided with the annual UN Business and Human Rights Forum which was being held in Geneva and which attracted more than 2,500 delegates from across the world.
Addressing the meeting, Professor Ken McPhail, Director of Research at Deputy Head of AMBS, said the fact that many more academics had joined the meeting this year was an affirmation of the importance of business schools in this agenda.
“We are looking at a significant paradigm shift and are at this really interesting time where we are crystallising the need for substantive shifts in the way that we think about the relationship between business and society. It is great to be in a room with such an influential audience and to hear ideas about how we can take this agenda forward.”
An increasing number of business schools are responding to the challenges that human rights issues pose for corporate operations. Through research, business scholars are advancing our understanding of how corporate models affect human rights. And through classroom and experiential learning, future corporate executives are practicing managing human rights scenarios in the safety of the academic environment.
Some business schools have already begun to integrate a human rights perspective into business education by creating specific human rights programmes, classes and initiatives.
At the meeting, Lene Wendland, Adviser on Business and Human Rights in the OHCHR, said that the field had to be populated across disciplines, and business schools had a key role to play. “Fostering this knowledge and culture of business and human rights, and what it is that can be done by businessmen and women, is essential.”
David Asch, Director of the EFMD, emphasised that in thinking about business and human tights there should be more focus on both business school students and faculty. “They’re the real agents of change,” he said.
The group will now jointly develop a toolkit for business schools that compiles teaching resources on business and human rights, possible research outlets, and testimonies of schools that have already implemented human rights programmes.
The toolkit will be published in early 2019 to serve as a resource for business schools. Schools in this network also stand ready to offer advice on how to incorporate human rights into business education.
If you would like any further details about the toolkit contact firstname.lastname@example.org