Business, Social Responsibility, and Human Rights

O'Connell, J. (PI)
Section Number
Large corporations now routinely spend millions of dollars to protect human rights and the environment. Shell Nigeria builds hospitals and schools in the Niger Delta. Nike employs hundreds of inspectors to improve conditions for the factory workers who produce its shoes across Asia and Latin America. Technology companies such as Facebook have scrambled to fend off the threat of new regulation since the Cambridge Analytica revelations. Other examples abound, across industries and around the globe. "Don't be evil" (Google's former motto) may be one motivation for these companies, but something more mundane is also at work: many companies believe they will do well, financially, if they do good, ethically. This course examines questions that lawyers in large law firms, corporations, NGOs, and government agencies regularly confront: --How does business activity affect human rights and other "social" goods (such as the environment and community cohesion)? --What factors, internal and external to companies, shape corporate decisions that have human rights/social impacts? When does it serve a company's interest to take costly action to address human rights, labor, and environmental concerns? -- What tactics have activists used to shift public opinion, media frames, and the law, and thereby change companies' incentives? We will learn through seminar-style discussion, lectures, role play, and small group exercises. Several guest speakers with experience in business, advocacy, or in between will provide insights from their experiences on the ground. Special Instructions: Students have the option to write a long research paper in lieu of the final exam with consent of instructor. After the term begins, students enrolled in the course can transfer from section (01) into section (02), which meets the R requirement, with consent of the instructor. Elements used in grading: Class Participation, Written Assignments; Final Exam or Final Paper. Cross-listed with International Policy (INTLPOL 358).
Law Honors/Pass/Restrd Cr/Fail
Course Tags
Contemporary Issues
Academic Year
Section Days
Tuesday Thursday
Start Time
11:10 AM
End Time
12:40 PM
LAW 185