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Business and Human Rights

Backed by the Lord Alliance Foundation, Alliance MBS is establishing one of the world’s first business and human rights networks at a business school.

The subject area of business and human rights has grown significantly since the United Nations formally endorsed the ‘Guiding Principles’ on Business and Human Rights in 2011 which are based on three key pillars:

*Protect – re-affirms that nation states are the primary duty-bearers under international human rights law. This duty requires states to have effective laws and regulations in place to address business and human rights related issues.

*Respect – stipulates that corporations have a responsibility to respect rights that is independent of the states’ obligations. There is growing debate around the extent to which this principle confers a positive moral obligation to realise rights.

*Remedy – stresses the need for both judicial and non-judicial access to remedy where rights have been violated. While the second pillar arguably gives business a role in realising rights, this principle creates an expectation upon corporations to remediate rights abuses, effectively giving business a role in dispensing justice.

Accounting impact

The Principles represent a potentially significant shift in the organisational and institutional context within which accounting operates. In other words, accounting will both shape and be shaped by the requirement for companies to take on a responsibility for human rights.
A growing list of international bodies such as the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have adopted the Guiding Principles, while they have also been endorsed by the European Commission.
For instance in 2014 several EU directives governing the way member states purchase goods, works and services came into effect. These directives have substantially extended the breadth and depth of human rights provisions now available under EU public procurement rules.
In 2015 the EU also introduced mandatory certification for all EU importers sourcing from conflict zones. All importers of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold for manufacturing consumer goods need to be certified by the EU to ensure that they do not contribute to conflicts and human rights abuses. The same year the EU also launched its Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy which uses the Principles in order to build responsibility in the supply chain.

Alliance MBS network

The new network will showcase the school’s creativity and innovation in research by addressing some of the world’s most pressing human rights violations, while facilitating impactful research into significant policy debates.

If you would like further information about the network contact Professor Ken McPhail, Associate Dean of Social Responsibility at the University of Manchester Faculty of Humanities at