LAW-58306 Business, Human Rights & the Environment


Studiepunten 6.00

Individual Paper0
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)N Bernaz-Potter
Lecturer(s)N Bernaz-Potter
C Macchi
Examiner(s)N Bernaz-Potter

Language of instruction:


Continuation courses:

LAW22306 Global & EU Environmental Law & Policy

LAW22806 Food Law

LAW31806 Global Economic (Trade) Law and Risk Regulation

LAW39806 Comparative Food Law PR China/USA


The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by over 1 billion since 1990. It is clear that economic globalization has provided many opportunities for the world’s poorest. At the same time, the environmental and human externalities of corporate activities, such as climate change and modern slavery, are becoming increasingly visible. Most of these impacts take place in the developing world but are caused by Western companies, including Dutch companies. What about the moral and legal responsibility of these companies whose business is to sell clothes, chocolate or natural resources? How can companies prevent, mitigate, and remedy their impact on human rights and the environment? Can global business be a force for positive change? This course introduces students to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and related concepts such as business and human rights (BHR), that shape global business practices. It asks the fundamental question: what is, and should be, the role of law in balancing business, human rights, and the environment?

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

- understand how global business is regulated through law and held accountable in the areas of human rights and the environment;

- identify the specific legal roles, powers and responsibilities of key actors and institutions that shape responsible business practices;

- appreciate the unique role of courts in holding business accountability for human rights and the environment;

- apply legal instruments to real-life business and human rights/environmental dilemmas, from different perspectives;

- find and apply relevant legal sources and information;

- provide feedback on draft assignments to their peers.


prepare for the self-study package and take the intake quiz;
read the required literature before each lecture;
attend lectures;
write and submit an individual paper;
discuss draft version of the papers in group during tutorials;
take the final exam.


Exam (70% of final grade): exam with a mix of multiple-choice questions and open questions.

Individual paper (30% of final grade): the paper takes the form of an NGO or a company brief on a business and human rights dilemma 


Selected chapters of Bernaz, Business and Human Rights. History Law and Policy. Bridging the Accountability Gap (Routledge, 2017).

Self-study package and materials on BrightSpace.