Center for Responsible Business

Human Rights & Business Initiative

We believe that business can harm or advance human rights around the world.  For business to meet its responsibility to respect human rights and be a force for good, we must ensure that current and future business leaders have both the attitude and aptitude to address critical human rights challenges. 

Many multinational companies have corporate responsibility departments and a growing number of companies are establishing formal human rights programs. However, we have found that too often these departments are siloed and do not have a seat at the table when critical business decisions are made, often with disastrous consequences for human rights.  

We have established the Human Rights and Business Initiative (HRBI) precisely to address this integration challenge in the short and long term.  Building on recent success and momentum in advancing business respect for human rights, HRBI works to advance the concept of rights-aware decision making in business: whenever and wherever a company makes a business decision that could impact human rights, we need the decision-maker to consider those human rights impacts.  

There are many aspects to the challenge – from human trafficking and modern slavery in global supply chains to internet privacy and free speech – and the solutions require a multi-faceted approach.  In order to achieve our vision of rights-aware decision making in business, the HRBI engages students, faculty, and experts from business, civil society and government in the following mutually reinforcing activities:

  • Teaching: In addition to offering dedicated courses on human rights and business, we work to embed human rights in core business disciplines taught at the university through guest lectures, cases, and student projects.  With this approach we increase the aptitude of future leaders in corporate responsibility, while ensuring that all business leaders have the awareness and basic understanding of their companies’ human rights responsibilities.  Conversely, we build connections across the Berkeley campus to integrate a business lens into traditional human rights courses taught at the university.  It is our hope that all human rights advocates understand the importance of engaging constructively with business to address human rights challenges.
  • Research and Innovation: In association with the SSRP, our case studies, we develop research that applies academic rigor to create actionable insights and tools for practitioners working to advance business respect for human rights.  We focus on creating case studies highlighting effective management of human rights impacts that can be used in class to teach core business disciplines and in business to advance best practices.  We plan to spur innovation in the field through competitions, hackathons, and student projects.  Long term research projects will focus on maximizing the use of technology to address human rights challenges and making the business case for human rights. We also are a resource for Sustainable Investment & Finance activities.
  • Collaboration: The world's most pressing business and human rights challenges are too big for any single actor to address alone. Housed at a globally recognized academic institution, we have the unique ability to bring together stakeholders from business, civil society, government, and academia to work together to address business and human rights challenges.  We believe multi-stakeholder collaboration is essential to addressing the systemic challenges that are at the root of many human rights abuses involving business.  We plan to use our convening power to foster dialogue through conferences, speaker series, webinars, and ongoing working groups.

For more information, please contact Faris Natour or Marissa Saretsky.